RT World News06:17 Текст источника в новой вкладке
RT World News

1. Stay home, save lives? Kuwait restricts foreign travel for unvaccinated citizens, barring most of its population from trips00:39[−]

Kuwait has opted to allow only its vaccinated citizens to travel abroad, with children and pregnant women exempted from the new rule. The move effectively grounds a large part of the nation’s 4.2 million population.

The blanket ban on foreign travel for the unvaccinated citizens was announced by authorities of the Gulf nation on Tuesday. Starting from August 1, only vaccinated individuals will be allowed to go abroad.

Children under 16, however, are exempt from the new rule. People with medical conditions preventing vaccination, as well as pregnant women, will also be allowed to travel if they obtain proper certification from the nation’s health ministry.

The move effectively grounds a vast swath of the country’s population under a foreign travel ban. According to the latest available data, Kuwait has administered over 2.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, with around one million people so far – over 22% of the population – receiving two shots.

While the announcement was not exactly clear on this matter, it apparently indicated that only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to travel after the measure takes effect next month.

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Gulf nation has registered over 394,000 coronavirus cases, while almost 2,300 people have succumbed to the disease.

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2. Luxury Paris jewelry store hit in broad daylight armed raid, over $2 million worth of loot reportedly stolenВт, 27 июл[−]

A lone armed robber has raided a branch of high-end jewelry store Chaumet near the Champs-Elysee avenue in central Paris, according to local prosecutors. The suspect escaped the scene with a lucrative haul and remains at large.

The brazen robber hit the luxury store late Tuesday afternoon. Footage from the scene shows the store cordoned-off with multiple police officers inside and outside the premises.

According to local media reports, the suspect arrived at the store on a stand-up scooter. The robber then threatened the tellers with a firearm before bagging a haul of jewelry and precious stones from the stunned staff.

While no estimates have been provided officially, initial media reports suggested the man lifted some €2 million ($2.37 million) worth of goods. No one was injured during the robbery, and the suspect fled the scene on his two-wheeled getaway vehicle. No description of the suspect has been released by French authorities, and the man remains at large.

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The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the incident.

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3. Moderna warns of Covid-19 vaccine delivery delays for customers outside USВт, 27 июл[−]

Drugmaker Moderna has warned of temporary delays in Covid vaccine shipments for its customers outside the US. The issue is linked to a testing operation by manufacturing partners and is expected to briefly slow down deliveries.

The supply chain disruption, acknowledged by the company on Tuesday, is linked to unspecified laboratory testing carried out by some of the company’s overseas manufacturing partners.

While the issue itself has been already resolved, the manufacturing hiccup has thinned out the reserves of the vaccine kept by the company to ensure smooth deliveries. The so-called “safety stock” is expected to be built back in 2-to-4 weeks.

“We are currently not reserving safety stock to allow vaccines to be delivered faster, which means that we do not have stock in storage to smooth these types of shortfalls or delays,” a Moderna spokesperson said, as quoted by Reuters.

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The company did not name the countries to be affected by the shortage or elaborate on the severity of the issue.

The manufacturing issues experienced by the company were first revealed by South Korean authorities earlier in the day. South Korea, which is expanding its mass-vaccination drive, said the issue affected Swiss contract drugmaker Lonza and a Spain-based company which is bottling vaccines for Moderna. While the Spanish company was not officially named, drugmaker Rovi is known to “fill and finish” Moderna vaccines intended for shipment outside the US.

“This means the production-related issue does not only affect South Korea. Rather it is a common problem for countries that receive volume from the manufacturing site,” the head of the South Korean vaccine procurement team, Jung Eun-young, told a news conference.

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Due to the disruption, a delivery of the Moderna jab scheduled to arrive in South Korea in late July was pushed to August. To alleviate the vaccine shortage, the Southeast Asian country has opted to switch to the Pfizer jab for certain groups of the population who are yet to be inoculated.

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4. Ancient Romanian gold mine awarded UNESCO world heritage status, complicating ongoing legal battle with Canadian companyВт, 27 июл[−]

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has awarded Romania’s Rosia Montana gold mine world heritage status. However, the move may complicate an ongoing lawsuit with a Canadian company.

During the latest session of the UN body’s World Heritage Committee, the Rosia Montana mine was awarded the special UNESCO status because of its historical significance, dating back to the second century.

According to the International Council on Monuments and Sites, the historical mine “contains the most significant, extensive and technically diverse underground Roman gold mining complex currently known in the world.”

Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, praised UNESCO’s listing of the site in a Facebook post on Tuesday, and proposed that Rosia Montana “should become a model for enhancing the value of heritage through the sustainable development of the area.”

UNESCO’s decision, however, was not warmly welcomed by all. The mayor of the Rosia Montana municipality, Eugen Furdui, argued that the new status “does not bring benefits to the community or to the country,” citing extra expenses to renovate or update buildings in the area and bureaucracy in needing UNESCO approval.

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The UN body’s decision has also added further complexities to an ongoing legal dispute between Romania and a Canadian company, Gabriel Resources. The company released a statement claiming that the UNESCO decision is in “contradiction with Romania’s obligations under its investment treaties in connection with Gabriel’s investments”.

The company filed a lawsuit seeking $4.4 billion in damages in 2017 after the Romanian government blocked Gabriel Resources’ plans to build its own large mine in the region after nationwide protests erupted in 2013. The Canadian company’s plan would have destroyed four mountain tops and three villages in the municipality.

The Romanian government declared the Rosia Montana mine a site of historical interest in 2016.

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5. 3-year travel ban for those who visit Covid ‘red list’ countries, Saudi Arabia warnsВт, 27 июл[−]

The Saudi government has threatened its own citizens with a three-year travel ban if they undertake trips to countries deemed unsafe by the kingdom’s authorities due to the prevalence of Covid-19.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said that travel to prohibited countries was a serious violation of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Anyone who is proven to be involved will be subject to legal accountability and heavy penalties upon their return, and will be banned from travel for three years,” the ministry posted on Twitter.

An interior ministry source told state news body the Saudi Press Agency that the ministry has been made aware of some people travelling to ‘red list’ countries and will “expose” anyone who is guilty. The punishment for such actions, the three-year travel ban, will be given to the traveler on their return.

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Saudi Arabia has prohibited travel to several countries in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19, including Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates.

“The Ministry of Interior stresses that citizens are still banned from travelling directly or via another country to these states or any other that has yet to control the pandemic or where the new strains have spread,” the official added.

Last week, the Saudi government said that citizens must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want to travel abroad, in a further effort to limit the spread of infection. The measure will come into force on August 9, but excludes those under the age of 12.

According to Our World in Data, just over half the Saudi population have received one shot, while less than 20% have received both jabs.

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6. Czech Supreme Administrative Court overrules Health Ministry’s mask mandateВт, 27 июл[−]

The Czech Supreme Administrative Court (NSS), the country’s highest authority over executive actions, overruled the Health Ministry’s mask mandate on Tuesday, declaring the measure unjustified and threatening to cancel it.

In a statement posted to the court’s website, the NSS issued a final judgement warning that the Health Ministry’s rule ordering the wearing of masks in buildings and on public transport in the Czech Republic will be cancelled within three days if the ministry does not provide sufficient justification for the measure.

So far, the NSS claims the ministry has been “systemically ignoring” its decision, despite the court having the final say over executive actions taken by the Czech government.

“The court only requires the ministry to meet the requirements for justification, which are clearly set out in the pandemic law. Nevertheless, the ministry is unable to meet this requirement,” the president of the eighth chamber of the NSS, Petr Mikes, said.

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This is the third time the NSS has ordered that a Health Ministry mask mandate be overruled, having previously blasted the government’s reasoning on the matter, raising concerns about the claim that the benefits of wearing a respirator outweigh the health risks. The court has already ordered the ministry to provide scientific evidence that backs up its decision to implement the mask order but, according to the NSS, the government has failed to do so.

The decision from the NSS was sparked after an individual suffering from a long-term respiratory disease brought the case over concerns that they struggle to wear a mask and fear it endangers them more than not wearing one.

The Health Ministry’s mask mandate currently requires that citizens wear face coverings in shops, service establishments, public transport, medical facilities, and social services.

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7. Chinese state newspaper lashes out at BBC for ‘fabricating stories’ about journalists ‘attacked’ while covering floodsВт, 27 июл[−]

The Chinese Global Times newspaper has accused the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) of “twisting facts” and “fabricating stories” after the BBC claimed journalists had been “attacked” while covering floods in China.

The BBC issued a statement on Tuesday calling for “immediate action by the Chinese government” after several journalists, including ones working for the AP and Los Angeles Times, were confronted by a group of Chinese people while documenting flood damage on Saturday.

“Over the weekend a social media post by a part of the Chinese Communist Party called on citizens to post comments on the whereabouts of a BBC team covering the floods in Henan Province,” the BBC claimed, adding that journalists “from other media organizations” were “subsequently confronted by an angry crowd looking for the BBC team.”

“There must be immediate action by the Chinese government to stop these attacks which continue to endanger foreign journalists,” the media organization concluded.

Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, however, accused the BBC of fabricating parts of the story to damage China.

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“Just several journalists from Western press were surrounded & questioned by onlookers in the street in Henan, and it was not a govt action,” Hu claimed, adding that “there were no attacks” on the journalists during the encounter.

He went on to argue that the BBC “is notorious in China for twisting facts and fabricating stories about China.”

During the confrontation on Saturday, the journalists were filmed by the crowd, accused of “rumor-mongering,” and told to get out of China.

In a series of posts on Twitter, one of the journalists involved in the incident – LA Times Beijing bureau chief Alice Su – claimed the crowd had mistaken them for the BBC and that they had a screenshot of BBC China correspondent Robin Brandt with them, who they were trying to find.

She revealed that the crowd had become upset after the journalists spoke to shopkeepers in the area whose property had been destroyed in the floods.

After the group of journalists translated the crowd’s complaints, Su claimed the Chinese people “seemed to calm down.”

“We then quickly left. It was not a pleasant experience,” she concluded.

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8. Ireland hopes to fully inoculate all adolescents by mid-September, as govt pledges Covid-19 shots for 12–15-year-oldsВт, 27 июл[−]

The Irish government has said it hopes to fully inoculate all adolescents against Covid-19 by mid-September, as the country opens its vaccination program to 16-17 year olds and promises to make jabs available to everyone over 12.

Speaking on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told national broadcaster RTE that he hopes the country will have vaccinated all 12–15-year-olds by the middle of September.

Coveney was speaking as the country extended its Covid vaccine program to those aged 16-17. More than 84% of adults in Ireland are now partially inoculated against the virus, while 70% have received both shots.

Irish health authorities are set to open walk-in vaccination centers this weekend in an effort to encourage younger people, who have recently become eligible for the jab under the country’s phased roll-out, to come forward.

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“This represents a very significant opening up of our vaccination programme. We want to encourage high participation rates now among these remaining age cohorts,” Prime Minister Micheal Martin told reporters.

Ireland is not the first EU country to expand its inoculation program to cover teens. France, Greece and Denmark have all dropped the minimum vaccination age to 12 following European Medicines Agency (EMA) announcement that the Pfizer and Moderna shots are safe for use in minors.

Irish authorities have registered a steep rise in infections in recent weeks, marking a fourth wave of the virus, although there have been tentative signs of cases plateauing.

According to Reuters data, Ireland has registered 175 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, representing 19% of the peak infections recorded in January.

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9. Indonesia reports deadliest day of Covid pandemic, with 2,069 fatalities in 24 hoursВт, 27 июл[−]

Indonesia has suffered its worst single-day death toll of the pandemic, the country’s health ministry revealed on Tuesday when announcing a record 2,069 Covid fatalities in the previous 24 hours amid a surge in cases.

The nation’s deadliest day since the pandemic began marks an increase of almost 600 deaths over the previous 24 hours, and is significantly higher than last week’s single-day record of 1,566 deaths, according to health ministry data.

The concerning rise in deaths from Covid in Indonesia comes amid soaring case numbers, which saw new infections spike to more than 45,000 on Tuesday, from 28,000 on Monday. Health officials had recently reported a record number of new weekly infections, with 350,273 cases registered in the seven days ending July 12.

The Indonesia government decided on Monday to relax its pandemic restrictions, allowing some businesses and shopping malls to reopen despite the high number of positive Covid tests. The nation’s president, Joko Widodo, defended the easing of rules by citing the country’s falling hospital occupancy rates.

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Even in the worst-hit areas of Indonesia, the relaxation has allowed traditional markets, vendors and open-air restaurants to join some businesses and mosques in reopening, although offices remain under shutdown orders. The Delta variant has fuelled new infections in a number of regions outside of the capital Jakarta, including Java and Bali.

Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world, has recorded 3.19 million confirmed cases of Covid, the 14th-highest figure of any country globally. With 58.7 million doses of a Covid vaccine administered so far, the Asian nation has suffered 84,766 deaths from the virus throughout the pandemic.

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10. 50 shades of brown: India backs ‘eco-friendly & cost effective’ paint made from COW DUNG in new bovine-tech developmentВт, 27 июл[−]

The Indian government has thrown its support behind a project which sees cow dung processed and repurposed as paint, describing it as environmentally friendly and praising its ability to create employment.

In a press statement on Monday, the union minister for micro, small & medium enterprises, Narayan Rane, lauded the results of a study which claims that ‘Khadi Prakritik’ cow-dung paint is both “eco-friendly and cost effective.

The paint, which was launched earlier in 2021, has been tested at several government facilities, including the National Test Houses in Ghaziabad and Mumbai and the Shri Ram Institute of Industrial Research in Delhi, and “satisfies the parameters required for paint.”

The ministry has high hopes for the cow-dung paint, developed by the Jaipur-based Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute (KNHPI), saying it will create jobs, promote local manufacturing, and generate additional revenue for those working with cows, including farmers and shelter home workers.

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Earlier in July, Union Minister of Road Transport Nitin Gadkari said he would become a “brand ambassador” for the paint which originates from the rear-end of Hinduism’s holiest animal. He lauded its “immense potential” for helping the “poorest of the poor” and even said a prakritik paint unit should be set up “in each and every village.”

Gadkari was speaking at the inauguration of a new plant which will double production of the paint to around 1,000 liters per day. The paint is available in two varieties – distemper and emulsion – and is even believed to have certain benefits, including anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and natural thermal insulation properties.

In India, cow dung is widely believed to benefit human health when consumed, smeared onto the body, and used around the house. In recent months it has even been touted as a cure for Covid-19, though Indian doctors quickly debunked those theories.

In March, Madhya Pradesh Culture Minister Usha Thakur told media that ritual burning of a cow dung patty can keep a house sanitized for 12 hours. While unsupported by science, the minister’s comments, and those of other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP – India’s ruling party) politicians, including the promotion of drinking cow urine, have fueled the spread of Covid-19 misinformation.

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11. ‘Mossad cell’ arrested over plans to provoke violence during ongoing protests in Iran, Tehran claimsВт, 27 июл[−]

Members of an armed cell who allegedly worked with Israel’s Mossad spy agency and planned to provoke violence during protests in Iran have been detained, Tehran’s Intelligence Ministry has told local media.

The group, which allegedly had access to a heavy shipment of weapons and ammunition, was recently apprehended after entering Iran through its western border, an official from the ministry told the Fars news agency.

The official didn’t elaborate on the size of the unit or the nationality of those arrested, but they insisted that the suspects were acting in cooperation with Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

The weapons seized from the alleged agents included pistols, grenades, rifles, shotguns, and ammo. The arms were being brought into Iran to be used during “urban riots and assassinations,” according to the ministry official.

The announcement comes after several weeks of demonstrations in Iran against water shortages in the southwest of the country, caused by severe drought. The unrest has resulted in at least five deaths among the protesters.

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The Intelligence Ministry representative also claimed that Israel had been intending to carry out “acts of sabotage” during the Iranian presidential election in mid-June, which was won by hardline candidate Ebrahim Raisi. The country’s security forces prevented those activities, he added, and “dealt a blow to the Mossad terrorist network.”

He also thanked Iranians for their “constant vigilance,” while urging the public to remain wary of any "suspicious offers," particularly if made online.

Tehran has long accused Israel intelligence of undertaking malign activities on Iranian territory in an attempt to undermine the country’s stability and derail its nuclear program.

The two blasts that rocked the Natanz nuclear site in April 2021 and July 2020, as well as the assassination of a top scientist in Iran’s nuclear program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in November 2020, have been linked to Mossad by Iranian officials.

While the Israeli government has not claimed or denied responsibility for those incidents, recently retired Mossad chief Yossi Cohen implied last month that his agency could well have played a part in them.

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In a bombshell TV interview, Cohen remarked that the Natanz facility didn’t “look like it used to” after the explosion crippled its centrifuges, and confirmed that Fakhrizadeh had been a target for intelligence-gathering by Mossad “for many years” because Israel was “most troubled” by his work.

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12. Bomb goes off outside Dutch halal butcher shop, police recover 2nd explosive deviceВт, 27 июл[−]

A bomb detonated outside a store that caters to Muslims in the Netherlands on early Tuesday morning, prompting evacuation of several homes. Another bomb was later found nearby.

The incident took place in the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, also known as Den Bosch, in the southern part of the country.

Police said that an explosive device went off outside the store, while another one was recovered nearby by a bomb squad. Thirteen homes were evacuated.

Police did not reveal any more details about the investigation and asked locals for information on social media.

The shop’s glass front door was damaged, as were several parked vehicles and a bus stop 30 meters away. The business was described as selling halal food, meaning that it caters to Muslim customers.

Witnesses told Dutch media that they were woken up by a loud bang around 2am. “At first, I thought about fireworks, but [the noise] seemed more violent,” a local said, describing the shop as a Moroccan supermarket.

The business resumed serving customers on Tuesday morning. “I want to open the shop first. I don’t want to say anything at the moment,” the owner told the Brabants Dagblad daily. He added that he planned to speak to police detectives later in the day.

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13. Japanese PM Suga says record number of Covid cases ‘not a problem’ for the Olympics despite growing pressureВт, 27 июл[−]

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga dismissed concerns over the record high Covid-19 numbers on Tuesday amid dissent over the country’s hosting of the Summer Olympic Games.

Suga said the new infection rates are “not a problem” for the Olympics, and that people in Tokyo should work from home to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.

Tokyo recorded 2,848 Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, the highest figure since the pandemic started.

Olympics organizers reported several positive cases of athletes and staff working at the event, including a Dutch tennis player and 12 security guards, according to Jiji News Agency.

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Tokyo declared a fourth state of emergency this month, which is set to run until the end of the Olympics.

“It’s the Delta variant,” Kenji Shibuya, a former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London, told Reuters in reference to the swift recent spike.

“The government has sent signals that people are supposed to stay home at the same time they celebrate the Games. It’s a totally inconsistent message,” he added.

Tuesday’s record numbers pose another threat to the PM’s results in the upcoming general election, set to be held on or before October 22.

Three days after the opening ceremony, a survey showed that Suga’s approval rating had dropped significantly due to a ‘lack of leadership’. Suga’s cabinet’s approval dropped 9% since June to 34%.

Dissent for the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has largely been centered around his handling of the pandemic and decision to proceed with hosting the Olympic Games, which was already delayed for a year. Over 450,000 people signed a petition to cancel the event due to the health risk.

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Earlier this month, the World Health Organization urged “everyone to take caution in what they do” at the games, and linked this year’s UEFA European Championship to a rise in positive cases in Europe.

In response to the reported health risks, Tokyo’s state of emergency effectively blocked fans from watching the Olympics in person.

Some nearby cities hosting events, however, allow spectators to attend.

But the growing numbers of cases – and the government’s sinking approval ratings – suggest the Olympics have not been a political win for the new head of the LDP.

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14. Senior cardinal of Roman Catholic Church and former close ally of Pope Francis goes on trial in $412mn fraud caseВт, 27 июл[−]

The trial of 73-year-old former cardinal Angelo Becciu over allegations he fraudulently spent $412 million of church money began in a special Vatican courtroom on Tuesday, months after he was removed from his post by Pope Francis.

The court case marks the culmination of a two-year investigation that discovered the cardinal had been involved in spending €350 million ($412 million) to purchase a property on Sloane Avenue in the posh London neighborhood of Chelsea that went awry.

Prior to his dismissal in September, Becciu was in charge of donations at the Vatican office that handles Church funds. He had been a close ally of Pope Francis and is the most senior Vatican official to stand trial for financial misconduct. The crimes he is accused of include funneling donations to businesses run by his brothers on the Italian island of Sardinia. Becciu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Alongside the cardinal, nine other defendants, who all deny wrongdoing, are on trial for extortion, embezzlement, money laundering and abuse of office. The case is being heard in a special courtroom set up in the Vatican Museums that has the space required to conduct the trial in a Covid-safe setting.

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Two hearings will be held this week before the trial is expected to be adjourned until October. The case is set to last for several months before a judgment will be rendered. It comes after Pope France announced in April that he will allow lay judges to oversee cases involving cardinals and bishops, rather than it being handled by cardinals, as had been tradition.

“I think this trial marks a turning point that can bring about greater credibility of the Holy See in financial areas,” Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, the Vatican’s newly appointed finance chief said. He pledged to make the Church’s financial matters more transparent.

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15. Snowden skewers Big Tech, ‘amoral’ capital firms for enabling ‘Insecurity Industry’ & calls for urgent action before it’s too lateВт, 27 июл[−]

Warning that companies that claim to protect national security are the “greatest danger” to it, Edward Snowden has urged the dismantling of this ‘Insecurity Industry’ by banning trade in intrusive software and penalizing enablers.

In a searing post on his blog, ‘Continuing Ed’, the NSA whistleblower pointed to the Pegasus scandal as a “turning point” that exposed the “fatal consequences” of private-sector companies like the NSO Group that are part of this “out-of-control” industry – whose “sole purpose is the production of vulnerability.”

“The phone in your hand exists in a state of perpetual insecurity, open to infection by anyone willing to put money in the hand of this new Insecurity Industry,” Snowden noted, adding that its clients range from countries to “sex-criminal Hollywood producers who can dig a few million out of their couch cushions.”

The entirety of this industry’s business involves cooking up new kinds of infections that will bypass the very latest digital vaccines (security updates) and then selling them to countries that occupy the red-hot intersection of a Venn Diagram between ‘desperately craves the tools of oppression’ and ‘sorely lacks the sophistication to produce them domestically.’

As news of the Pegasus scandal broke last week, it emerged that over 50,000 phones were infected by Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group’s flagship malware. Many of the numbers on the leaked list reportedly belong to political opponents of these client countries.

The former US intelligence contractor described the mobile ecosystem as a “dystopian hellscape of end-user monitoring and outright end-user manipulation.” Similarly, he stated that the world is “in the midst of the greatest crisis of computer security in computer history.”

This is partly because, he noted, software developers and device manufacturers like “Apple, Google, Microsoft (and) miserly chipmakers who want to sell...not fix things” are still writing code in “unsafe” programming languages because it is easier and more cost-effective than modernizing.

In recent years, both Google and Microsoft engineers have said that roughly 70% of all serious security bugs in the Chrome codebase and Microsoft products respectively are related to memory safety problems – that Snowden puts down to the lack of incentive to switch to a safer programming language.

“The vast majority of vulnerabilities that are later discovered and exploited by the Insecurity Industry are introduced, for technical reasons related to how a computer keeps track of what it’s supposed to be doing, at the exact time the code is written,” he noted.

As examples of “incentivizing change,” Snowden suggests that “defining legal liability for bad code in a commercial product” would give Microsoft a “heart attack.” As well, he noted, make Facebook legally liable for any leaks of its users’ “unnecessarily collected” personal records and “Mark Zuckerberg would start smashing the delete key.”

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Similar liability clauses needed to be applied to “amoral” global capital firms that bankroll companies like the NSO Group. Without these funds, Snowden noted, neither the scale nor the global consequences of ‘Insecurity industry’ activities would be possible.

However, the “first digital step” must be to “ban the commercial trade in intrusion software.” By “eliminating the profit motive” there would be a reduction in the risk of proliferation by private companies while preserving avenues for genuine research.

“If we don’t do anything to stop the sale of this technology, it’s not just going to be 50,000 targets: It’s going to be 50 million targets, and it’s going to happen much more quickly than any of us expect,” Snowden noted, warning of a future where “people (are) too busy playing with their phones to even notice that someone else controls them.”

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16. 2 dead & 5 missing after HUGE explosion rocks German chemical park, injuring at least 31Вт, 27 июл[−]

Two people have died and at least 31 are injured after a serious blast occurred at a disposal center in Leverkusen’s Chempark. Locals were told to stay inside and close doors and windows as smoke billowed above the city.

Five people remain missing after the incident and two deaths have been confirmed, Chempark said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

“My thoughts are with the injured and loved ones. The search for the missing is still going on at full speed. Unfortunately, the hope of finding them alive is dwindling,” manager Lars Friedrich said.

The huge explosion rocked the city of Leverkusen in the German province of North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday morning. The cause of the explosion remains unknown.

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Police provided a number of updates throughout the morning on Twitter and urged people to stay away from the area and keep off the roads, noting that they need as many emergency service personnel on-site as possible.

The blast injured at least 31 people, according to local police, five of whom were so seriously wounded as to require intensive care.

Residents also received an “extreme danger” warning on the NINA app, which sends important civil protection warnings for various hazard situations.

The city’s police department said many roads around the facility were blocked off in the immediate wake of the incident. Motorways were also affected.

The authorities also urged people not to go outdoors and to remain in a room with the doors and windows firmly shut. Chempark later said that an all-clear had been issued "for the entire city area".

The fire was extinguished shortly after 2pm local time, allowing rescue workers to undertake their recovery operations at full speed. In an earlier statement, the city’s authorities said that the blaze occurred at a tank containing solvents. Fire crews had to wait for a power cable to be disconnected before they could get to work.

More than 30 companies operate at Chempark but Currenta insisted that the incident took place at the park’s landfill and waste incineration facility, which is detached from the main industrial area. The main part of the complex houses chemical firms such as Covestro, Bayer, Lanxess and Arlanxeo, according to its website.

In recent weeks, the state and neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate were hit by devastating floods that resulted in the deaths of nearly 200 people.

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17. Every fourth pedophilia suspect in Poland is a priest, state commission revealsВт, 27 июл[−]

Nearly 30% of all sexual offences against minors in Poland are linked to representatives of the clergy, the State Commission on Pedophilia revealed in its first report.

The commission, which was established by the government in 2019, shared the results of its work on Monday in a 250-page paper.

The experts examined 349 pedophilia cases during this period, with priests being suspects in around 100 of them. More than 50 of these cases have been forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office, the report said.

The commission also criticized the Polish Catholic Church for its unwillingness to cooperate with the government on the controversial issue.

“In countries like Australia and the US, the church leaders have long understood that tackling pedophilia and working together with the authorities in this area is a matter of elementary credibility of their institutions,” but this wasn’t the case in Poland, the paper stated.

The materials contained in the report were “frightening,” but they only proved that the fight against these “heinous crimes” must continue, Blazej Kmieciak, the commission’s chairman, said.

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But not only priests and strangers were accused of molesting children, with some offences attributed to family members, including parents, in 35% of the cases, the report read. The majority were men (94%), it added.

Most of the victims were aged between 11 and 15, but there were also many between 3 and 10. The youngest child to suffer sexual abuse among the cases viewed by the commission was just one year old.

The report emphasized the severe psychological trauma suffered by sexually abused children. It urged the cases against pedophiles to be prioritized by prosecutors and recommended that a special position of ‘child advocate’ be introduced to deal with them.

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© Pixabay
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Poland is a mainly Catholic country, and the church has been plagued by accusations of sexual abuse against minors for year. In 2019, public pressure forced it to release a report saying it had recorded almost 400 cases of priests molesting 625 children since 1990. However, the names of the offenders remained undisclosed. A documentary which came out the same year claimed that the pedophile priests were never punished for their sins, but were only transferred to another parish where they could continue their criminal behavior.

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18. EU on track to fully vaccinate 70% of its population by end of summerВт, 27 июл[−]

The European Commission (EC) has announced that it is on course to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of its member states’ citizens by the end of summer, after reaching a milestone in the number of first doses administered.

In a press statement released by the EC on Tuesday, the bloc’s President Ursula von der Leyen shared that the European Union (EU) has reached its target of vaccinating at least 70% of adults with one dose by July. Von der Leyen celebrated the achievement, declaring that “the EU has kept its word and delivered.”

Current projections suggest that the EU will be able to have double vaccinated 70% of its population by the end of summer, as 57% is already fully inoculated.

The European Union’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, also celebrated the news via Twitter, calling on citizens to “trust the science and get vaccinated,” adding that vaccination protects people against new variants.

While a 70% vaccination coverage across the bloc puts “Europe among the world leaders,” as Von der Leyen claimed, some countries are better protected than others. Almost 50% of Germany’s adult population is fully vaccinated, yet Bulgaria’s full inoculation rate stands around 13%.

The EU’s vaccine rollout was initially sluggish, as the bloc was slow to negotiate deals with vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca. Further distribution and production issues with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna also hampered the vaccination campaign on the European continent. The World Health Organization’s European director slammed the vaccination campaign as “unacceptably slow” at the end of March.

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FILE PHOTO: Medical assistant Jana gives a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine injection during vaccination at the Revolte Bar, which has been able to reopen after coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions were eased, in Berlin, Germany June 13, 2021. © REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
Over half of EU adults fully vaccinated against Covid, as bloc’s slow rollout picks up speed

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19. Hong Kong convicts first person for inciting secession and terrorism under national security lawВт, 27 июл[−]

A Hong Kong court convicted Tong Ying-kit on Tuesday after a 15-day trial, marking the first time a person charged under the city’s national security law has been found guilty of inciting secession and terrorism.

The landmark decision means that Tong could face life in prison after being found guilty at a trial that was held without a jury, a departure from Hong Kong’s traditional rule of law.

Tong, who is 24, had been charged with driving a motorbike into three riot police, while carrying a banner that declared “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our times.” The court did not consider an alternative charge of causing grievous bodily harm through dangerous driving.

“The defendant carried out those acts with a view to intimidating the public in order to pursue his political agenda,” Justice Toh, one of the judges presiding over the case, said.

The defendant had pleaded not guilty to all the charges, with his lawyers arguing that it had been an accident and he hadn’t meant to hurt the officers.

The court will reconvene on Thursday to consider his sentence, which will be handed down by three judges who were picked by Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, to handle national security cases.

With more than 100 people having been detained since the national security law came into effect in 2019, Tuesday’s guilty verdict could mark the beginning of a string of convictions of activists who have been accused of violating the legislation since its introduction in 2020.

While there has been international condemnation of the national security law, which human rights groups have claimed silences free speech, China has defended it as necessary to restore stability in a region that was blighted by protests.

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The 2019 protests were initially sparked by a planned extradition bill that would allow China to secure the rendition of individuals from Hong Kong who are accused of violating Chinese laws. However, it broke out into a wider movement that demanded democratic reforms and autonomy from China.

In an attempt to prevent future unrest, China implemented a national security law in Hong Kong, which criminalizes secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces. While China claims it is simply about ensuring stability and protecting the relationship between China and Hong Kong, opposition figures have accused Beijing of violating the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and seeking to use the legislation to squash dissent in the city state.

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20. Victoria and South Australia set to end Covid lockdowns, while Sydney cases continue to climbВт, 27 июл[−]

The states of Victoria and South Australia have decided to relax their Covid measures after implementing strict snap-lockdowns. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in New South Wales show no sign of abating despite weeks of restrictions.

The premier for Victoria, Daniel Andrews, announced plans to lift the state’s lockdown on Tuesday, which comes into effect from midnight onwards. In a statement, Andrews noted that the decision to lift several measures was thanks to the health workers and citizens who played “their part to keep our community safe from coronavirus” during the almost two-week lockdown.

The decision to unlock follows a significant drop in coronavirus cases, with only 10 new infections recorded on July 26. As part of the easing of the Covid curbs, non-essential businesses, such as restaurants, cafes, and beauty salons, will be allowed to reopen for customer service. Residents of Victoria are no longer under the stay-at-home mandate that came into force on July 15. However, people will not be allowed to visit other households for at least two weeks.

The neighboring state of South Australia also announced that it will end its week-long lockdown from midnight after no new local coronavirus cases were identified.

Despite five weeks of lockdown, Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, has reported a record number of 172 infections – the highest figure this year. The premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, will announce on Wednesday whether the state’s lockdown will be prolonged.

Thousands of people took to Sydney’s streets on Saturday to protest the extension of lockdown measures until July 30 in New South Wales. Similar anti-lockdown demonstrations erupted across major cities Melbourne and Brisbane.

Australia had managed to weather earlier waves of the pandemic better than other countries through implementing strict lockdown measures. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Australia has recorded over 33,000 cases and over 900 deaths.

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Police arrest a man at an anti-lockdown protest in Sydney, Australia, July 24, 2021. © Steven Saphore/AFP
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21. Apparent war crimes committed during 11-day Israel-Gaza conflict, Human Rights Watch says, urging international probeВт, 27 июл[−]

Human Rights Watch, an international NGO, has called on the International Criminal Court to launch an inquiry into apparent war crimes committed by Israeli and Palestinian armed forces during the 11-day war in May.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that forces from Israel and Palestine carried out attacks during the May 2021 conflict that violated the laws of war and “apparently amount to war crimes.”

In their report, which brings together data from 30 interviews with eyewitnesses of Israeli attacks, video footage, satellite imagery and their observations from site visits in Gaza, HRW delivered a damning inditement of Israeli conduct during the conflict. The organization said that a more in-depth assessment of Palestinian attacks is still to come.

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Mourners carry the body of Palestinian man Hussien al-Titi, who was killed during stone-throwing clashes with Israeli forces, at Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, © REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
War crimes court 'monitoring developments' in West Bank: ICC prosecutor registers 'great concern'

The group said it had investigated numerous attacks during the conflict, primarily focusing on the ones in which most civilian causalities were reported.

HRW said it had observed three Israeli airstrikes in which 62 civilians were killed but there was “no evidence of military targets in the vicinity.”

In one of the incidents probed by the NGO, a four-minute Israeli airstrike struck al-Wahda Street in Gaza City, resulting in the destruction of three multi-story buildings and killing 44 civilians. HRW said Israel has provided no evidence to support its claim that there were tunnels and an underground command center in the area.

Gerry Simpson, associate director at HRW, shared several of the group’s findings on Twitter, claiming that Israel’s partners, including the US, had supplied the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with weapons that were used in two attacks which were investigated.

HRW said that Israeli authorities have demonstrated a “consistent unwillingness” to investigate reports of alleged war crimes as well as Palestinian attacks towards Israel. According to Simpson, this reinforces the need for an international probe led by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

HRW also noted Palestinian offenses, saying their 4,360 unguided missile launches towards Israeli population centers violated the “prohibition against deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians.” Simpson said that they would separately report on attacks by Palestinian armed groups which killed 12 in Israel.

The IDF insisted throughout the conflict that it was only targeting locations used by Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas. Israel’s forces also published the coordinates of upcoming strikes to allow civilians the time to remove themselves from danger.

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The IDF also ran a controversial social media campaign during the war, highlighting Hamas’ repeated attempts to target Israeli civilians and generally showing Gaza’s leadership in a bad light. One such Twitter post showed Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas chief, posing with a child armed with what appeared to be an AKS-74U assault rifle.

While Simpson’s tweets and the HRW report have been well shared on Twitter, some were not pleased to see the organization reporting solely on Israeli attacks. Professor Gerald Steinberg, the founder of NGO Monitor, called on HRW to do some “real research,” as he shared photos of armed Palestinian “terrorists.”

During the conflict, the ICC’s top prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, warned warring parties that she was keeping a close eye on developments in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. The court had already opened a war crimes investigation in March concerning possible offenses committed in Palestine since 2014.

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22. ‘Extreme threat’: Major EXPLOSION hits chemical industry park in Germany, residents told to stay inside (VIDEOS)Вт, 27 июл[−]

A severe explosion has occurred at a major chemical industrial park in Leverkusen, Germany, sending toxic smoke billowing above the city with residents told to stay indoors and close all windows and doors.

On Tuesday morning, Leverkusen’s Chempark, an industrial complex for the chemical industry, tweeted that the cause of a huge explosion was uncertain but called on all residents of the city to stay indoors, keeping all windows and doors firmly shut.

It confirmed that the incident occurred at its disposal center, after earlier reports suggested the location was a waste incineration plant.

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According to Chempark, more than 70 companies operate from its various sites across Germany. The facilities in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen account for around one-third of the total chemical production in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Cologne Fire Brigade said it was assisting the Leverkusen Fire Brigade with its operations, adding that the smoke plume could be seen from miles away.

Footage shared online shows the smoke swelling out of the facility, which is apparently owned by the Bayer Chemicals giant, on the banks of the Rhine.

According to the city’s police department, the roads around the facility have been largely blocked off. Motorways are also affected.

The police made a further request for people to stay away from the area and keep off the roads, noting that they need as many emergency service personnel on-site as possible.

“Five employees are currently missing,” the park's operator, Currenta, said in a statement. An air test van was in use, it added, and reiterated that the cause of the explosion remains unknown.

According to local authorities, 16 people have been injured, four of them severely.

Residents also received a warning on the NINA app, which sends important civil protection warnings for various hazard situations. It read: “Explosion in Bürrig, warning level: extreme danger.”

In 2016, there was a major fire at the Leverkusen chemical park that put the whole area on alert. The blaze broke out at a chemical storage facility during restocking procedures and was safely extinguished by the fire brigade. Chempark said the fire didn’t cause any danger to the public and no one was injured.

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23. Apocalyptic hailstorm batters northern Italy; traffic halted, people injured & crops destroyed (VIDEOS)Вт, 27 июл[−]

Hundreds of cars piled up on a major Italian highway on Monday after being damaged by a massive hailstorm which left several people injured, brought down trees, and caused damage in several regions.

Videos online show hail, which reached the size of a tennis ball, bombarding the ground amid strong winds and rain in a truly frightening sight.

Hundreds of cars were stuck in a traffic jam on the A1 highway not far from the city of Parma in northern Italy. Numerous windshields were smashed by the hail, forcing drivers to stop as they couldn’t see the road.
Several collisions were reported, while some people were lightly injured by broken glass. Traffic on the highway was halted for several hours due to the weather.

A 78-year-old store owner was wounded in Reggio Emilia’s commune of Luzzara after the freak weather caused the window of his shop to fall on him. The man was hospitalized with a fracture.

Three people were also injured in Modena, with two of them hurt after their van was hit by one of the many falling trees.

The hailstorm not only battered people’s homes and property, but also devastated fields, vineyards, and orchards in the area, with the damage to agriculture estimated in the millions.

But while northern Italy is being hit by hail and storms, the south of the country has been suffering from a lack of rain for around three months now.

Wildfires, which the authorities describe as unprecedented, continue to rage in Sardinia, consuming more than 20,000 hectares of forest and destroying several farms near the town of Montiferro on Monday, forcing the evacuation of around 900 people.

Europe has been hit by extreme weather this summer, with heavy rains causing unprecedented flooding in Germany, Belgium, Austria, and several other countries including Italy earlier this month, leading to at least 217 deaths, most of them in Germany.

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Police officers float on a boat on the river Ahr as damaged houses reflect onto the water and wyneyards are seen on the hills in the background, in Mayschoss, Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, on July 21, 2021, after devastating floods hit the region. © CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP
The floods in Germany show how fear-mongering about climate change is preventing us from combating actual disasters

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24. Cuba accuses US government of inciting Molotov cocktail attack on its embassy in ParisВт, 27 июл[−]

The Cuban Embassy in Paris was firebombed early Tuesday morning. The socialist country’s foreign minister accused the US of encouraging violence against Havana.

Two assailants hurled three Molotov cocktails at the diplomatic compound, causing some damage to the building, the Cuban mission said in a statement on its website. The diplomats were not injured.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez denounced the “terrorist attack” and blamed Washington. “I hold the US government responsible for its continued campaigns against our country that encourage this behavior and for its calls for violence, with impunity, from its territory,” he tweeted.

The US backed this month’s historic anti-government protests on the island and imposed new sanctions on Havana over its crackdown on activists. “We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom,” President Joe Biden said in a statement on July 12.

Biden’s hardline approach leaves little room for any potential easing of the embargo, which is taking a toll on Cuba’s economy.

During the largest demonstrations Cuba has seen in decades, people rallied against economic hardship, food and medicine shortages, blackouts, and the current political system. Protests were reported in more than 40 cities, including Havana, and were countered by pro-government rallies.

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Demonstrations were also held in the US, Argentina, Brazil, and other places abroad. In Spain’s capital, Madrid, protesters marched condemning the Cuban government on Monday, and a rally in support of the authorities took place the next day.

Officials in Cuba made some economic concessions after the protests, but also accused the US and domestic dissidents of using economic problems to stir unrest through social media. President Miguel Diaz-Canel accused the media of spreading lies about the nature and scope of the protests.

Washington broke off diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1960, shortly after revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro overthrew the government, and imposed an embargo in 1962.

An American embassy in Havana was reopened in 2015 during the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, which sought rapprochement with Cuba. The policies were completely reversed under Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, and the situation remained unchanged after Biden replaced Trump.

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25. US regulator restricts flights over Afghanistan due to ‘militant activity’ as deadline for American troop withdrawal loomsВт, 27 июл[−]

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has barred national airlines from low-altitude flights over war-torn Afghanistan, citing the deteriorating situation on the ground.

In an emergency order effective Sunday, the FAA banned US airlines from flying below 26,000 feet (8,000km) in the Kabul Flight Information Region, which largely covers Afghanistan, unless operating in and out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in the capital.

The restrictions were made due to the “risk posed by extremist/militant activity” in the country, the regulator said. The new rules do not apply to US military aircraft.

The decision came amid growing fears that Afghanistan will be completely overrun by the Taliban and plunge into further chaos once the last American soldiers leave the country. The militants have been gaining ground in recent weeks in fierce battles with the Western-backed government forces.

Though US troops are set to withdraw by August 31, the Pentagon vowed to continue its support for the Afghan government after the deadline expires.

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FILE PHOTO. A US soldier in Torkham, Nangarhar province. © AFP / Noorullah Shirzada
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Aircraft are exposed to rockets and even small arms fire when flying at low altitudes.

The militants targeted Hamid Karzai International Airport in 2017 and 2018.

In December 2020, three rockets landed near the airport, damaging a parked plane operated by Kam Air, Afghanistan’s domestic airline, which was empty at the time of the attack.

The Western military presence has failed to bring peace and stability, as the war with the Taliban and other insurgent groups has dragged on for nearly two decades.

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26. 'Big step toward restoring trust': North & South Korea reopen communication hotline after year of silenceВт, 27 июл[−]

The two Koreas said they have agreed to reopen a cross-border communications channel shuttered more than a year ago, with Pyongyang hailing the move as a “big step” toward rebuilding bilateral ties.

The decision was first announced by South Korea’s presidential Blue House early on Tuesday morning and quickly confirmed through the North’s state-run media outlet, KCNA.

“The South and the North agreed to restore the communication line between the South and the North that had been cut off,” the president’s office said in a statement, noting the channel was restored at 10am local time while predicting it would have a “positive effect” for the two countries.

Seoul said that the revival of the communication channel was long in the works, noting that South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have been discussing the possibility in a series of personal letters since spring.

The two leaders have exchanged personal letters several times since last April to communicate about the restoration of inter-Korean relations.

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Japan's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Mori (C), South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun (L) and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (R) pose for photos prior to their trilateral meeting in Tokyo on July 21, 2021. © Kazuhiro NOGI / POOL / AFP
US, Japan and South Korea stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ over policy towards North Korea

Pyongyang, meanwhile, said it hoped the move would help to resolve the “state of frustration and stagnation” with Seoul “as soon as possible.”

“The leaders of the north and the south agreed to take a big step toward restoring mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring the disconnected inter-Korean communication channels through personal letters exchanged several times recently,” the official news agency said.

The north cut the comms channel in June 2020 over complaints that the south was not doing enough to stop activists from sending anti-government leaflets over the border, also destroying an inter-Korean liaison office set up near the demilitarized zone in retaliation.

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27. Tunisian president imposes nighttime CURFEW, tells opponents to ‘revise constitutional lessons’ amid ‘coup’ accusationsВт, 27 июл[−]

Tunisian President Kais Saied has declared a nationwide, month-long nighttime curfew after ousting the government and freezing parliament amid continued mass protests. He maintains his actions are legal.

The curfew imposed by Saied started on Monday and is scheduled to last until August 27. Under the new restrictions, all movement of people and vehicles is banned between 7pm and 6am local time, with exceptions made for urgent medical cases and night workers.

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Supporters of Tunisia's President Kais Saied gather on the streets as they celebrate after he dismissed the government and froze parliament, in Tunis, Tunisia, July 25, 2021
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The presidential order also prohibits any movement of people and vehicles between cities even outside the time of the curfew, save for the purpose of fulfilling “basic needs.” Gatherings of more than three people on public roads and squares are banned as well.

The move came a day after Saied suspended parliamentary activities, stripped MPs of their immunity, and fired Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. Opponents immediately accused the president of carrying out a coup. Some opposition MPs, including the parliament speaker, Rached Gannouchi, staged a sit-in outside the parliament on Monday after soldiers barred their entry.

Tunisia saw continuous protests throughout last week as people rallied over the handling of Covid-19, economic hardships, and police violence. Last Wednesday, Mechichi slammed the newly dismissed health minister, Faouzi Mehdi, saying the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been dismal. The country has seen a surge in cases amid a low vaccination rate of about 11%, according to Reuters, while chaos at vaccination sites has caused stampedes.

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FILE PHOTO: Patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) receive treatment at the emergency department of Charles Nicole Hospital in Tunis, Tunisia July 13, 2021. © REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui
Tunisia’s government in chaos after PM condemns ex-health minister for ‘dysfunction’ during Covid pandemic

Saied said he would assume executive power and hand over the pandemic response to the military under Article 80 of the constitution, which allows the president to take measures deemed necessary in cases of “imminent danger threatening the integrity of the country.” These measures must be taken after consultation with the prime minister, however.

After the order was issued, Mechichi said he was ready to hand over his responsibilities to whoever Saied chooses, noting that he would not be “a disruptive element” or help to fuel the political crisis that has engulfed his country.

Some politicians, however, accused Saied of staging a coup and rolling back all the nation’s accomplishments achieved after ousting longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 during the Arab Spring. Among those politicians was Mouncef Marzouki, the first president to rule Tunisia after Ben Ali.

“There is no doubt about the fact that it's a coup because the president himself said I have all the powers,” said Marzouki, as cited by Al Jazeera. “The main idea we have when writing the constitution is to say that the President is no longer the guy who has all the power.”

Marzouki was elected as interim president by the National Constituent Assembly in 2011 and served in that capacity until December 2014. He left his post after losing an election just months after Tunisia adopted a new constitution.

The ex-president lamented that Tunisia “was supposed to be a success story in the Arab world,” but that this is no longer the case as the country remains mired in political upheaval and “the worst health crisis” in its history.

Saied himself clearly did not share that sentiment. On Monday, he stated once again that his actions were in line with the constitution, telling critics to “revise your constitutional lessons.” He also urged Tunisians to not fall for what he called “provocations” encouraging them to take to the streets.

The US has expressed concern over the situation in Tunisia and urged “all parties to avoid taking any actions that could stifle democratic discourse or lead to violence.” The US State Department said Washington “is closely monitoring developments in Tunisia,” adding that it was “particularly troubled” by reports about some closed media offices.

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Police and protesters face off against each other in Tunis, July 26, 2021. © Fethi Belaid/AFP
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Earlier on Monday, Al Jazeera said police broke into its office in Tunisia and seized journalists’ equipment. The reason for the raid remains unclear.

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28. EU sends help to Italy as hundreds are evacuated from island of Sardinia amid wildfires raging for days (VIDEOS)Пн, 26 июл[−]

Massive wildfires have ravaged tens of thousands of hectares on the Italian island of Sardinia. Firefighters are struggling to contain the blaze as it rages for a third day straight, with Rome asking the EU for help.

More than 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of forest and land have been devastated on Sardinia as wildfires raged through the Montiferru region in the island’s west. The outbreaks also stretched east to the province of Ogliastra.

Videos published on social media showed walls of fire moving along the mountain slopes in Sardinia and closing in on some settlements, as plumes of black smoke blotted out the skies overhead. Firefighting aircraft water-bombed the blaze just meters away from homes, the footage showed.

Other videos showed partly burned buildings with blackened walls and caved-in roofs. Hundreds of local residents and tourists were evacuated across the island as the authorities sought to protect them from the looming catastrophe.

“It’s a disaster,” said Diego Loi, the mayor of Santu Lussurgiu town, after ordering 60 people to evacuate on Sunday. “And we fear the worst,” he added.

Sardinian shepherd Dante Casula, who managed to save his flock of 400 sheep but lost two horses and a shed as well as 180 bales of hay to the blaze, described the fires as “an ordeal, hell”. The region’s governor, Christian Solinas, called it “a disaster without precedent” as he introduced a state of emergency on Sunday.

No deaths or injuries have been reported so far but hundreds of sheep, goats, cows and pigs died in the blaze as they were trapped in barns at farms in the wildfires’ path. On Monday, the fires that raged over the weekend were still raging close to at least 13 Sardinian towns, despite the efforts of at least 11 firefighting aircraft and fire crews on the ground.

The emergency services’ efforts have been hampered by the strong and hot winds still blowing through the island.On Sunday, Italy asked European nations for help tackling the fires and particularly called on them to send specialized firefighting aircraft. In response, the EU agreed to send four Canadair planes to help Italy. Two of them were provided by France and another pair by Greece.

“During these difficult times, we stand together,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a tweet on Monday, as he announced the move.

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29. Global mission led by Interpol sees over 280 human smuggling suspects arrested, 430 victims freedПн, 26 июл[−]

Crime agency Interpol has released details of ‘Operation Liberterra’, a mission coordinated by authorities in dozens of states which led to the rescue of 430 human trafficking victims and the arrest of 286 suspects.

Law enforcement agencies across 47 countries participated in the mission, under which some 500,000 inspections were carried out at checkpoints and airports following local intelligence and tip-offs, Interpol said in a statement on Monday.

As well as the overarching mission to combat migrant smuggling, the agency said that a further 60 transnational investigations have been launched to focus on forged identification, after an influx of fake or stolen identity documents were seized during the assignment.

Operation Liberterra ran from July 5 to 9, and on the first day of the mission authorities in Tanzania arrested a Ugandan bus driver carrying a box of 169 forged passports from Kampala to Dar es Salaam, according to Interpol.

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Among the arrests made during the operation, authorities in Brazil, Colombia, Curacao, and Panama detained fugitives wanted for crimes such as drug trafficking, rape, and money laundering. Six people were arrested in the UK who were sought by authorities over sex-trafficking charges.

Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock said the operation underscored “how multinational, highly organized criminal networks only focus on one thing – profit.”

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“With 22 criminal groups dismantled, it also shows what coordinated, global law enforcement action can achieve,” Stock added.

The results of Operation Liberterra also highlighted a concerning level of human trafficking from Africa and the Middle East into Europe. In Spain, one organized crime group which reportedly smuggled migrants by sea from Algeria to the Spanish coast was brought down. Authorities in North Macedonia arrested six gang members who, Interpol said, liaised with partners in the Middle East to smuggle migrants to Greece from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Syria.

Many of the trafficking victims located as part of the mission were rescued in Sudan, Interpol said, with authorities there freeing 253. They also arrested 32 suspects as part of the joint operation.

The law enforcement body also noted that some of the 430 trafficking victims found via Operation Liberterra were underage girls, some of whom had been “coerced into sexual exploitation through death threats from human traffickers.”

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30. Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine antibodies begin to fade 6 months after 2nd dose – studyПн, 26 июл[−]

The antibody protection generated in recipients of the Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccine begins to fall 6 months after the second dose has been administered, according to a new study from China-based researchers.

A research paper published on Sunday found that only 16.9% of people who had received two doses of the Chinese vaccine two weeks apart, and 35.2% of those who had both jabs four weeks apart, still had antibodies above the neutralizing threshold six months after that second vaccine.

While the paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers at the disease control authority in China’s Jiangsu province examined blood samples of healthy adults aged between 18 and 59 to see the lasting impact of having two doses of the Sinovac jab.

As well as exploring the effect of two doses, scientists investigated the benefits of a third booster shot, finding it had a strong positive impact on increasing the level of antibodies within recipients if given six months after the second jab. When people had that booster jab, researchers saw a three- to five-fold increase in their level of neutralizing antibodies, indicating the additional shot could help to maintain protection against the virus.

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While the study provides an insight into the effect of the Sinovac Covid jab, scientists were clear that they had not examined the impact of highly transmissible variants on the level of protection provided, cautioning that more research is required.

The latest research follows a similar study by the faculty of medicine at Thailand’s Thammasat University and the country’s National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. That research, released at the start of July, showed that the level of antibodies in double-jabbed people who had the Sinovac vaccine halved every 40 days. The study of 500 participants also did not provide insight into the protection the vaccine doses offered against the Alpha or Delta variants of Covid-19.

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31. Lebanese billionaire Mikati appointed PM with backing of Hezbollah & Amal after months of stalemateПн, 26 июл[−]

Lebanon’s new prime minister designate, Najib Mikati, has secured enough votes to form a government and implement a French-devised plan aimed at saving the country from its financial crisis after months of political deadlock.

On Monday, businessman Mikati, a two-time former PM, received the support of the Lebanese groups Hezbollah and Amal among others, securing enough votes to form a government following parliamentary consultation.

Mikati, who does not hail from a political bloc, was appointed PM by President Michel Aoun after securing a majority of 72 votes from the 118 members of parliament.

“I don’t have a magic wand and can’t perform miracles... but I have studied the situation for a while and have international guarantees,” Mikati said after the vote.

The new PM has vowed to implement a French plan which involves putting together a government of specialists to push through enough reforms to attract foreign aid and ease the country’s economic plight. Mikati will now need to form a cabinet from the country’s squabbling political factions.

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The billionaire businessman previously served as PM for a brief period in 2005, and again from 2011 to 2013.

In 2019, corruption charges were filed against him, alleging illicit gains from a subsidised housing loan scheme. Mikati denied any wrongdoing and said the charges were politically motivated. The charges were dropped in May 2021 when the public prosecutor overseeing the charges was removed from office, which the International Commission of Jurists labeled an “attack” on the judiciary.

Monday’s news comes amid several months of terse political deadlock in Lebanon. Last week, Saad Hariri gave up trying to form a government after eight months of negotiating. The country is suffering from its worst economic woes since the 1975-1990 civil war with crippling economic conditions, public distrust in political leaders and a run on the Lebanese pound.

Hariri himself had been tasked with forming a government on October 22, 2020, after predecessor Hassan Diab’s August 10 resignation following the devastating explosion in the Port of Beirut. Many in Lebanon have blamed the blast on government negligence.

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32. Equatorial Guinea shuts UK embassy after London imposes sanctions in violation of ‘principle of international law’Пн, 26 июл[−]

The African nation of Equatorial Guinea slammed the UK for interfering in its domestic affairs, as it announced the “total closure” of its embassy in London in response to UK sanctions on the son of the country’s president.

The move, announced by the country’s foreign minister, Simeon Oyon Esono, followed the UK’s decision on Thursday to slap the president’s son, who serves as Vice president, with sanctions.

The UK Foreign Office claims that Teodoro Obiang Mangue reportedly spent $500 million on properties, cars and other items, as part of a jet-setting lifestyle fuelled by corrupt behavior and the soliciting of bribes.

In response, Equatorial Guinea called the sanctions “unilateral and illegal,” aimed at “fomenting against the good image” of the country.

Calling Britain’s actions a breach of “the principle of international law,” the country’s FM declared that Equatorial Guinea would be shutting its embassy in London as it will not accept “interference into the country's internal affairs.”

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Simeon Oyon Esono did not specify a timeframe for the closure of the embassy, that he called the “first decision” that’s being taken in retaliation.

In a separate case, a French court handed Obiang a three-year suspended sentence in February 2020, ordering the confiscation of his assets in the country and giving him a €30 million ($25.64 million) fine following a corruption investigation. A final ruling on the case by the Court of Cassation is expected on Wednesday.

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33. ‘Coon Island’ renamed by Australian councilors despite local opposition after name deemed ‘genuinely racist’Пн, 26 июл[−]

Councilors in New South Wales have voted to change the name of an Australian island popular with tourists after it was deemed to carry racist connotations, though a survey found more than half of locals opposed the switch.

On Monday, councilors from Lake Macquarie, a city on Australia’s east coast, voted 8-5 in favor of scrapping the monikers ‘Coon Island’ and ‘Coon Island Point’ following a four-month consolation process.

Though the island has been known by the name for around 100 years, it was recently deemed problematic given the word ‘coon’ has racist connotations as a pejorative term for a black person.

The councilors will now submit proposals to the Geographical Names Board, which will see the island instead called ‘Pirrita Island’ and the adjacent headland renamed ‘Miners Point’, the local authority said in a tweet.

Lake Macquarie councilor Kevin Baker, who was a leading force in efforts to rename the nature reserve, thanked everyone involved in “righting this wrong”, and said he looked forward to “the process of healing within our community.”

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Speaking to the Australian Herald, Baker said the name ‘Coon Island’ was “genuinely racist and genuinely hurtful to a lot of people in our community.”

However, Baker’s proposal to rename the isle did not receive widespread support in the locale. According to local reports, a council-run survey of 2,120 local residents found that 44% supported the move while 56% opposed the name change. Of those supporting the proposal, 86% deemed the name ‘Coon Island’ offensive.

Baker said that public feedback had been considered when mulling the name-change, along with the opinions of key stakeholders, but that it was inevitable that some people would have been disappointed either way.

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The island, which sits at the head of the Swansea Channel, is currently a nature reserve and popular tourist site. Archeological evidence suggests there was a human presence on the island as long ago as 7,800 years ago and has significance to the Awabakal people, an Aboriginal tribe.

However, the island had been named after its one-time sole inhabitant, Herbert Greta Heaney, a miner nicknamed ‘coon’ because he often returned home with his face covered in black coal dust. The name for the island and the adjacent headland stuck.

The proposed name ‘Pirrita’ is an Awabakal word meaning oysters which grow from mangrove trees, while ‘Miners Point’ is a reference to Heaney’s profession. Baker said it was important to recognize both the indigenous and European contributions to the region.

Earlier this year, a popular Australian dairy product called ‘Coon Cheese’ was rebranded by its owners to ‘Cheer Cheese’ amid concerns that the racial connotations of the product’s name would cause offence. The new ‘Cheer Cheese’ hit Aussie shelves in June.

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34. Hundreds of Malaysian contract doctors stage protest for better working conditions as country battles rising Covid infectionsПн, 26 июл[−]

Hundreds of Malaysian doctors have staged walkouts from major hospitals, demanding that the government offer better job security and wages. The protests come amid a spike of coronavirus infections.

Medical workers protested en masse across the country to fight for the better treatment of over 20,000 junior contract doctors that have worked at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic. “Our strike is not about resistance, we only want the government to give us the same rights and benefits that permanent doctors get,” one of the participants told local media.

The junior doctors account for almost half of the country’s medical doctors in the public healthcare system. They claim that they are underpaid, have less job security and opportunities in comparison to doctors on permanent contracts. The junior staff bashed the contract system, claiming that the government failed to complete its promises since the scheme came into force in 2016.

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Striking doctors faced pressure to not act from healthcare managers, as well as from local police, who said that they would potentially probe the protests for breaking coronavirus restrictions.

The Southeast Asian country has been grappling with a recent surge in coronavirus cases. Malaysia reported a record high of some 17,000 infections on Sunday, which pushed the country over the one-million case mark. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Malaysia has recorded over 8,200 deaths.

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35. Japanese PM Suga’s approval rating hits new low following dissent over OlympicsПн, 26 июл[−]

The approval rating for the Japanese cabinet has fallen 9% since June to 34%, according to a survey conducted by local media. Disapproval centers on Covid-19 concerns linked to the Summer Olympics, which kicked off last week.

The survey conducted by Nikkei and TV Tokyo was released on Monday morning, only three days after the Summer Olympic Games began. The analysis was undertaken between Friday and Sunday and the results showed the lowest ratings since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office last September.

According to the survey, the most popular response for disapproval was ‘lack of leadership’, cited by 53%, followed by ‘poor management of the government and party’ at 35%.

The Olympic Games, which were supposed to occur in 2020 but were delayed to this summer due to the pandemic, have sparked widespread protests across Japan. Many feel that the global event poses a national health risk, potentially further spreading Covid-19.

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An online petition labeled ‘Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives’ has received over 450,000 signatures. If the event is held, the Olympics will be denying their own purpose of “celebrating peace,” the petition reads.

It also states that the virus has “not at all been under control,” and that the distribution of vaccines “is limited to economically developed countries and thus the pandemic is far from over.”

The link between the decision to proceed with the games and concerns regarding the handling of the pandemic were conveyed in Monday’s survey.

Respondents saying vaccinations ‘are not going smoothly’ gained six points to 65%, while the number of those saying they ‘are going smoothly’ decreased by nine.

A general election in Japan is due to occur on or before October 22, and the new poll presents a grim outlook for the prime minister.

However, Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has governed Japan all but four years since World War II, and largely controls parliament. A change in leadership, if it happens, would therefore most likely come from within the party.

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36. ‘We have not taken this step lightly’: New Zealand announces decision to allow suspected ISIS-linked woman to return from TurkeyПн, 26 июл[−]

The New Zealand government announced on Monday that it has agreed to repatriate a suspected ISIS member and her kids from Turkey, after the Australian government stood by its decision to strip them of their citizenship.

The woman, named in the media as Suhayra Aden, and her two children were detained by Turkish authorities in February 2021 after they attempted to illegally cross over into the country from Syria. However, as dual Australian-New Zealand citizens, with the mother having grown up in the former country, there has been an ongoing debate over where she will be repatriated.

Alongside 16 other individuals, she had her citizenship stripped by the Australian government for travelling to Syria to join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). The Australia Department of Home Affairs has the ability to revoke the citizenship of any individual over the age of 14 who is suspected of involvement in terror activity, as long as it will not leave them stateless.

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The move was condemned by New Zealand at the time, which accused Australia of failing to appropriately deal with its own citizens. “New Zealand is not able to remove citizenship from a person and leave them stateless, and as New Zealand citizens this country is the only place where they can currently legally reside,” New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said.

“Agreeing to a managed return was the right step in this case,” Ardern added, seemingly in a criticism of the Australian government. Due to security concerns, New Zealand government agencies did not confirm the specific arrangements of her return or whether she will be subject to investigation by regional police once she arrives in the country.

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37. Iran surpasses 30,000 daily coronavirus cases as record number of new infections reported amid Tehran lockdownПн, 26 июл[−]

Iran has broken another sad record in daily Covid-19 infections, just days after its capital, Tehran, tightened lockdown measures. The country is one of the hardest hit in the Middle East.

The Iranian health ministry released its daily coronavirus report on Monday, with 31,814 infections recorded in under 24 hours. The figure is the highest recorded in the Islamic Republic to date.

On July 20, Iran reported 27,444 infections, the highest level the country had seen since mid-April.

The government announced the rollout of Covid-19 curbs in Tehran and neighboring Alborz province last Tuesday. Government offices, as well as non-essential businesses, such as retail and cinemas, were forced to close as part of a week-long lockdown. Iran has been reluctant to impose nation-wide lockdowns though, instead opting for localized restrictions.

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President Hassan Rouhani warned earlier in July that Iran would see its fifth wave of coronavirus infections, as the highly contagious Delta variant was spreading rapidly around the country.

Iran’s battle with coronavirus is exacerbated by the country’s slow vaccination rollout, with under 3% of its 83 million population fully inoculated, according to Johns Hopkins University. The government has previously blamed US sanctions for delaying the vaccination campaign, slamming the imposed economic restrictions allegedly blocking the purchase of doses as “medical terrorism.”

Since the pandemic began, Iran has recorded over 89,000 deaths and around 3.7 million cases.

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38. Former Australian Liberal National Party leader blasts colleagues for abandoning ‘fundamental Australian values’ during Covid-19Пн, 26 июл[−]

Campbell Newman, the former premier of Queensland and ex-leader of the Liberal National Party, has accused his colleagues of abandoning Australian values during the Covid-19 pandemic after publicly resigning from the party.

Newman resigned on Monday, accusing the party – which he led between April 2011 and February 2015 – of failing “to stand up for our core values” during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as “fiscal responsibility, smaller government, support for small business,” and “the defence of free speech and liberty.”

“The last straw for me has been the destruction of people’s livelihoods, jobs and freedoms under governments’ heavy-handed response to COVID-19 across the nation,” he declared in a statement, adding that though it “is important to keep Australians safe,” it is “equally important to keep us free.”

“Our federal and state governments have failed to honour the spirit of individual freedom that is at the heart of not only Liberal Party values, but wider Australian values,” Newman said.

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During an appearance on Sky News on Monday, Newman also accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other “politicians and bureaucrats” of having “felt no pain” during the pandemic and called on the government to commit to a date for reopening borders and lifting restrictions.

Newman argued that Morrison should provide Australians with a date where everyone who wants a vaccine will have been offered one and that from that date the border should reopen, lockdowns should end, and things can “get back to normal.”

On his decision to leave the Liberal National Party of Queensland – a state coalition of the ruling Liberal and National parties – Newman claimed the party and the government were no longer “actually standing up for what I consider to be fundamental Australian values.”

“When you get to that point, to continue any longer would be false,” he explained.

Due to Covid-19, Australia has implemented strict border controls, leaving at least 36,000 citizens and residents stranded abroad. Though citizens and permanent residents are technically permitted to enter Australia, strict entry caps, a huge rise in flight costs and other issues have left many unable to return.

Furthermore, Australians are currently unable to leave the country unless given an official exemption, meaning many people have been separated from their loved ones and sick relatives, and been unable to attend important events like funerals for the duration of the pandemic.

On top of border restrictions, Sydney has experienced some of the longest and most strict lockdowns in the world, resulting in a mass “freedom” protest of thousands on Saturday. Within 24 hours of the march, over 500 penalty notices were issued to protesters.

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39. Al Jazeera says Tunisian police raided its office, expelled journalists & seized equipment amid ongoing political crisisПн, 26 июл[−]

Al Jazeera said police broke into its office in Tunisia after President Kais Saied suspended parliament activities and sacked the country’s prime minister. Saied’s move was labeled a coup by opponents.

The Qatari state-funded channel said at least 20 armed plainclothes police officers entered its Tunis office on Monday and instructed all journalists to leave.

Al Jazeera quoted its Tunisian bureau as saying that police did not have a warrant, but claimed they were acting under orders from the country’s judiciary. The journalists had their phones and other equipment seized and were not allowed back into the building to get their personal belongings, the channel reported

“We did not receive any prior notice of the eviction of our office by the security forces,” Lotfi Hajji, Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Tunisia, said.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the raid, calling on authorities to respect the freedom of the press.

The reported raid took place a day after President Saied froze parliament activities, stripped MPs of their immunity, and fired Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. Saied argued the move was in line with the country's constitution and necessary in order to “save the state” amid a social upheaval.

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Opponents immediately accused the president of launching a coup. Rached Gannouchi, the speaker of Tunisia’s parliament, labeled Saied’s actions as unconstitutional and “illegal.”

Soldiers and armored vehicles were deployed to fend off the protesters from the parliament building, where clashes broke out on Monday. Prevented from entering the compound, Gannouchi and opposition MPs began a sit-in outside the parliament.

Anti-government protests intensified this week in Tunisian cities as people rallied over the handling of Covid-19, economic hardships, and police violence.

Tunisia’s current political system was created several years after longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011 during the Arab Spring.

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40. Indian rescue efforts impeded by worst monsoon rains in decades as west coast state death toll reaches 149Пн, 26 июл[−]

At least 149 people have died in just one state in India after monsoon rains triggered floods and landslides across the west coast. Relief efforts continue to be hampered by torrential rains.

In a tweet on Monday, the office of Maharashtra’s chief minister said that Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray was unable to visit flood-afflicted areas due to poor visibility, forcing his helicopter to turn around and return to Pune, the city from where he departed.

Despite the chief minister’s own struggle, he encouraged rescue workers to push on and ensure that they reach affected areas, notably Satara District, with the required aid.

“Rescue work should be carried out carefully, flood victims should be provided immediate food, clothing and medicine,” his office said in a tweet, adding that the waters are yet to subside in the area.

A government statement said that 149 people had died in the western state of Maharashtra due to landslides and other monsoon-linked incidents, including 37 deaths recorded on Sunday. It said that 64 were still missing.

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“We are trying hard to rescue people trapped under landslide debris in Raigad and Satara but the possibility of evacuating them alive is remote,” said a senior official with the state government, noting that some people had been trapped under the “mud” for three days. Both Raigad and Satara sit south of the country’s financial capital, Mumbai.

On Monday morning, news agency ANI reported that rescue operations at landslide-hit Taliye village in Maharashtra’s Raigad had been called off. All 31 missing would be declared dead.

Other west coast states, Goa and Karnataka, as well as Telangana in India’s center, have been hit by some of the heaviest monsoon rains experienced in years. Authorities are attempting to move 230,000 people to safer locations while undertaking painstaking rescue operations to recover people from landslides and floods.

Tens of people have died in Karnataka and Telangana due to flooding, although authorities have reported that the water levels of the Krishna and Godavari rivers are receding.

Hundreds of houses have been damaged in the popular seaside destination of Goa on India’s west coast. The state’s chief minister Pramod Sawant said it was experiencing the worst floods in nearly four decades.

On Sunday, nine tourists died in the Himalayas as a giant landslide crashed down the Sangla Valley. Authorities had already advised people against travel for tourism during the rainy season.

A horrifying video shows the sheer force of the rockfall, with one landing on a bridge, causing it to break in two.

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41. French parliament approves bill forcing vaccination for medical workers & greater health pass use amid growing protestsПн, 26 июл[−]

The French parliament has approved a bill to further tighten requirements for mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations and health passes in response to the Delta variant. The new constraints come amid mounting protests in France.

The new restrictions in Monday morning’s bill mean that French health workers will be obligated to receive the vaccine. The need for health passes will also be imposed across more areas of society, leaving fewer social activities and transport options available for those who are opposed to the jab.

Monday’s bill means that the health pass – a vaccine passport or a negative test – will be required in bars and restaurants, on long-distance train journeys, and on flights.

Prior to the measures approved on Monday, President Emmanuel Macron had already applied the health pass to museums, cinemas and swimming pools, following the spread of the Delta variant in early July.

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The bill still needs final approval by France’s Constitutional Court – a body to whom many protesters are appealing for the protection of their ‘droits de l’homme’, or human rights.

On July 24, protests across France intensified in opposition to Macron’s health pass, which many claim is a coercive move to force people into taking the vaccine. There were 160,000 people protesting across the country on Saturday, chanting “liberty, liberty!”

Signs that read ‘Down with the dictatorship’, in reference to Macron’s measures, were also seen.

The demonstrations, which have been active since the start of July, are rapidly growing in strength, with the recent protests boasting some 50,000 more people than those held a week ago.

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One of the major protests on Saturday, organized by French nationalist party Les Patriotes, took place at the Trocadero Square in Paris and appealed for more freedom and human rights.

Similar protests kicked off around Europe on Saturday, namely in Rome and Athens, where people opposed the vaccine.

According to the official data, 60% of adults in France are now fully vaccinated.

Since the start of the pandemic, France has recorded 111,806 Covid-19 deaths.

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42. China sees biggest Covid-19 surge in months, orders 2nd round of mass testing in NanjingПн, 26 июл[−]

A new wave of testing has been launched in the Covid-19 hotspot of Nanjing, China, as the country recorded its highest daily increase in infections in recent months.

China’s National Health Commission reported 76 new cases on Monday, including 40 that were locally transmitted. It was the highest daily increase since the end of January, according to Reuters.

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Officials said that 39 of the locally transmitted cases were recorded in the eastern Jiangsu region, out of which 38 were in Nanjing, the provincial capital of 8.5 million, and one in Suqian. Dozens of cases were previously linked to Nanjing’s Lukou International Airport.

After the world’s first Covid-19 outbreak was recorded in China last year, the country largely managed to control the spread of the virus through mass testing, rigorous contact tracing and strict lockdowns.

Authorities have since been busy fighting small clusters of infections, like the one seen in the hotspot of Ruili, a border town close to Myanmar, that went into a lockdown this month.

To contain the outbreak in Nanjing, a second round of mass testing was launched on Sunday, Yang Dasuo, deputy director of the city’s health commission, said. Other measures have also been introduced, including mandatory temperature checks.

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43. Knife-wielding assailant dies in custody days after being detained over attempted assassination of Mali’s leaderПн, 26 июл[−]

The individual accused of attempting to assassinate Mali’s president during a knife attack at a mosque in Bamako on Tuesday has died in custody after he was taken to hospital when “his state of health deteriorated.”

During prayers at a service marking the Eid al-Adha holiday in the Bamako Grand Mosque, an attacker attempted to stab Mali’s interim president, Colonel Assimi Goita, before being overpowered by security officers and thrown into a military truck. Goita, unharmed, was quickly surrounded by bodyguards and moved to safety, but another individual who was sitting behind him was injured. A statement released by Mali’s government said that the alleged aggressor had died after being moved to hospital when “his state of health deteriorated,” with an investigation into the cause of death being conducted.

As he was participating in prayers, the knife-wielding man approached the country’s leader and tried to stab him in the neck but, according to Mali’s prime minister, Choguel Maiga, Goita’s training as a special forces officer and “instinct helped prevent the aggressor from reaching his objective.”

While media reports had initially claimed that two individuals were involved in the attempted assassination, only one person was detained and security officers have not suggested that the other individual is being sought in connection with the attack.

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FILE PHOTO. Colonel Assimi Goita, leader of Malian military junta, attends the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) consultative meeting in Accra, Ghana. © Reuters / Francis Kokoroko
Armed man attempts to stab Mali’s interim president during prayers at Bamako mosque

Security services described the attack as “an isolated action,” seemingly dismissing potential links to the ongoing insurgency within the country and surrounding Sahel region that has been ongoing for a decade. Mali has been under the control of Colonel Goita since May 2021 after he seized power in a coup. The country’s government has been seeking to reestablish stability in the region, with the support of France.

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44. Asian Covid-hotspot Indonesia to receive 45mn Covid vaccines in August, as government eases curbs despite warningsПн, 26 июл[−]

Indonesia’s health minister has announced that the country will receive 45 million coronavirus vaccines in August just as Covid curbs have been relaxed, despite warnings that doing so will only worsen the country’s situation.

During a press conference on Monday, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, the country’s health minister, said that 45 million coronavirus vaccines will arrive in Indonesia in August. The vaccines expected to arrive in the South East Asian country are Pfizer, Moderna, and Sinovac.

The announcement comes as Indonesia’s president somewhat eased coronavirus curbs on Sunday, although restrictions will be in place until August 2. Beauty salons, markets, and restaurants with outside areas will be allowed to reopen, whilst malls will operate at a significantly reduced capacity of 25%.

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Health workers removed the body of a Covid-19 victim who died while isolating at home in Bandung on July 18, 2021, as skyrocketing Covid-19 infections and deaths are overwhelming hospitals. © AFP / Timur Matahari
Indonesia extends Covid curbs after hitting record national daily deaths as infections spike

The World Health Organization (WHO) implored Indonesia to reconsider its plans to ease restrictions on Thursday. “Indonesia is currently facing a very high transmission level, and it is indicative of the utmost importance of implementing stringent public health and social measures, especially movement restrictions, throughout the country,” the organization noted.

The South East Asian country witnessed over 50,000 cases daily on several days in mid-July, with a record high number of 1,566 deaths recorded on Friday. Although cases have somewhat fallen, as 38,679 new infections were recorded on Sunday.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has vaccinated almost 7% of its 270 million-strong population.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Indonesia has recorded over 3.1 million coronavirus cases, and more than 83,000 lives have been lost.

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45. Beijing demands withdrawal of sanctions in meeting with US, blaming Washington for ‘stalemate’ and creating an ‘imaginary enemy’Пн, 26 июл[−]

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has demanded the US remove sanctions on officials, students, and communist party members, as Beijing accused Washington of creating an “imaginary enemy” out of China.

Speaking on Monday, during a high-level meeting between Beijing and Washington, Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said relations between the two countries were at a “standstill” and that “serious difficulties” remain, according to Chinese media.

“The United States wants to reignite the sense of national purpose by establishing China as an ‘imaginary enemy,’” Xie was also quoted as saying during a confrontational meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

According to a statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website, Xie is said to have told his US counterpart that Washington is the “inventor of coercive diplomacy,” and described its own countermeasures “legitimate and reasonable.”

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(FILE PHOTO) © Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Beijing sanctions several Americans, including former US commerce secretary, in first use of new law against anti-China penalties

According to state media organization The Paper, the vice foreign minister also presented Sherman with several demands, as the two sides met in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. Xie reportedly asked Sherman to remove sanctions levied by the US on Chinese officials and communist party members, as well as loosening visa restrictions on Chinese students.

Monday’s meeting comes amid the US’ number two diplomat’s Asia tour, featuring meetings with counterparts in Japan, South Korea, and Mongolia.

Last Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Sherman would occupy “a position of strength” in her meeting with Chinese officials. This was rebuffed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday, who said Beijing would not let Washington take a “superior” position in the relationship.

The two superpowers have failed to bring relations back on track since the Biden administration took office, with ties souring since an initial high-level meeting in March in Anchorage, Alaska.

On Friday, China imposed sanctions on US individuals, including former US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in the first use of the country’s anti-foreign sanctions law passed in June.

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46. Afghanistan on course for highest number of civilian casualties ever, UN warns 1 month before US withdrawal deadlineПн, 26 июл[−]

The number of civilians killed or hurt in the war in Afghanistan has been sharply increasing since the Western coalition began pulling its soldiers out of the country, a UN report says.

A total of 1,659 civilians were killed and 3,254 injured in the first half of 2021, which is a 47% increase from the same period in 2020, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its mid-year report on Monday.

The actual numbers may be even higher, considering that the UNAMA only records casualties it is able to independently verify.

Out of those killed or maimed, 46% were women and children. The Taliban and other militants were responsible for 64% of civilian casualties, while 25% were attributed to pro-government forces and 11% to ‘crossfire’ between warring parties.

The UNAMA noted a particularly alarming trend – the civilian death toll has grown since May, when the US-led coalition forces began withdrawing. According to the report, 783 were killed and 1,609 injured in May and June, which was the highest number for those months since the UN mission began keeping records in 2009.

“Unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed,” Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary general’s envoy to Afghanistan, said.

US troops are set to leave Afghanistan by August 31, after two decades of occupation and amid growing fears that the Taliban, which has been gaining ground in recent years, will completely overrun the country.

Most US allies, including Germany and Italy, removed their last-remaining troops earlier this year, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in July that the majority of British soldiers have been withdrawn as well.

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General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, speaks during news conference, in Kabul, Afghanistan
US vows to continue airstrikes in Afghanistan, as general insists ‘Taliban victory is not inevitable’

On Saturday, the Afghan government imposed a nighttime curfew in 31 regions in an effort to counter the continuing Taliban offensives. General Kenneth McKenzie, who leads the US Central Command, said on Sunday that the US has ramped up airstrikes against the militants and the Pentagon will continue to support the Afghan government after the August 31 withdrawal date.

The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. The campaign ultimately failed to bring peace and stability to the country, and the war with the Taliban has dragged on for nearly two decades.

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47. Tunisian president OUSTS government, warns opponents that ‘army will respond with bullets’ if they try to unleash street violenceПн, 26 июл[−]

Tunisia’s president dismissed the government and froze parliament amid unrest over the “dysfunctional” political system and crumbling healthcare. His opponents decried the move as a “coup” and called for street protests.

Following an emergency meeting at his palace on Sunday night, President Kais Saied announced his decision to sack Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspend the parliament. In a televised address, he promised to consolidate power and “save” the country with the help of a new prime minister.

We have taken these decisions... until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state.

Hundreds of people who had rallied against the government earlier in the day celebrated the drastic move in the streets, cheering, honking, and singing, as military vehicles surrounded the parliament building and state TV.

The parliament speaker and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired ‘moderate’ Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, defied the order but was blocked from entering the parliament.

Ghannouchi denounced Saied’s move as “a coup against the revolution and constitution,” and called for street protests in a video message to supporters.

We consider the institutions still standing, and the supporters of the Ennahda and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution.

Saied, however, warned his political opponents against unleashing street violence, saying that the military won’t hesitate to use guns to quell unrest if it turns deadly.

I warn any who think of resorting to weapons... and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets.

Under the constitution, the president is only directly responsible for military affairs and foreign relations, but last week, he put the army in charge of the Covid-19 pandemic response – after PM Mechichi sacked the health minister, blaming him for the collapse of the healthcare system.

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The Tunisian Air Force team seen during the reception ceremony Tunis Carthage International Airport. © Jdidi Wassim/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Tunisian army to take control of Covid crisis as country grapples with healthcare system failures

Praised as the cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia adopted a new constitution in 2014, but still has no constitutional court to settle disputes, and consistently fails to form a stable government. President Saied and the parliament were both elected by popular vote in 2019, while Mechichi took office last year. Ghannouchi’s Ennahda, which was banned before the 2011 uprising, has since become the dominant force in parliament, locked in constant political rivalry with the president and prime minister.

Angered by the “dysfunctional” political system and collapsing economy, thousands of protesters, not openly backed by any of the major political forces, once again rallied in the capital, Tunis and other cities on Sunday.

Clashes erupted amid the protests when people tried to storm the Ennahda party offices, forcing police to deploy tear gas. The violence was apparently the last straw for Saied, prompting him to take drastic measures.

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48. Syrian air defense units intercept Israeli missiles near Damascus, thwarting THIRD raid in a week – Russian Defense MinistryПн, 26 июл[−]

The Syrian military intercepted two missiles fired by Israeli fighter jets at the Damascus suburb of Set Zaynab over the weekend, thwarting the third airstrike in just a week, using Russian-made air defense systems.

The airstrike was conducted from outside Syrian airspace at around 5:40am Sunday morning, when two Israeli F-16 jets fired two guided missiles targeting unspecified facilities in the town of Set (Sayyidah) Zaynab 10km south of Damascus.

Syrian air defense units equipped with Russian-made Buk-M2E systems successfully intercepted both of them, the head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, said in a daily briefing.

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File photo: A Russian-made 'Buk' anti-aircraft system launches a missile during maneuvers in Venezuela, April 15, 2015.
Russian-made air defense systems shot down ALL Israeli missiles targeting Syria’s Homs – military

On Wednesday night, two Israeli F-16 jets fired four guided missiles from Lebanese airspace at Syria’s Homs province. All of them were shot down, also using Russian-made Buk-M2Es.

On Monday night, four Israeli jets penetrated Syrian airspace through the area of At-Tanf on the Jordanian border, controlled by the US military, and fired eight missiles into Aleppo province. Seven of them were reportedly shot down by Buk-M2 and Pantsir-S systems, but the remaining one struck a scientific research facility in the town of Safira.

While Israeli officials rarely acknowledge the raids, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warplanes have routinely rained down missiles on Syrian territory in recent years under the pretext of self-defense against the ‘Iranian threat’.

Damascus has protested the repeated attacks as blatant acts of aggression, while Russia, Turkey, and Iran recently jointly condemned the Israeli raids as violations of sovereignty and international humanitarian laws.

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An Israeli F-16 fighter jet is seen after landing at Ovda airbase, some 40 km (25 miles) north of Eilat, during the Blue Flag drill November 25, 2013. © REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Russia, Iran, and Turkey blast Israel for violating international law with Syria airstrikes

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49. ‘More freedom’ for the vaccinated? Merkel aide warns of restrictions for unvaxxed Germans if Covid-19 cases continue to riseПн, 26 июл[−]

Unvaccinated Germans could be barred from entering restaurants and cinemas if Germany is hit with a new Covid-19 wave, a top aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel said, adding that those vaccinated will “definitely have more freedom.”

Germany might be in for yet another wave of Covid-19 cases, Helge Braun, Merkel’s chief of staff, told Bild on Sunday. “The number of new infections is increasing even faster than in the previous waves. That worries me very much,” Braun, who is also a doctor, warned.

The official said Germany could reach 100,000 daily infections in just nine weeks, and this would likely prompt the government to take drastic measures.

“If we have a high rate of infection despite our testing procedures then the unvaccinated will have to reduce their contacts,” Braun said. This would mean that unvaccinated people would not be allowed to go to restaurants, cinemas, or stadiums, even if they were tested, simply because “the risk to everyone else is too high.”

Those who have been vaccinated will definitely have more freedom than those who have not been vaccinated.

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In a vaccination tent at the open-air festival 'Kulturinsel W?hrm?hle', Lucy (L) from the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) puts a plaster on Lukas (R) after a Corona vaccination with the vaccine from Biontech. © Nicolas Armer/picture alliance via Getty Images
‘Every vaccination counts’: Merkel urges Germans to get inoculated amid ‘worrying’ coronavirus rise

The head of the chancellery also warned that a fourth Covid-19 wave would put tremendous pressure on the economy, with sick leaves potentially reaching historic highs, since many unvaccinated people would have to be quarantined anyway if they come into contact with an infected person.

Braun also said vaccination is the best remedy against a potential fourth wave. He encouraged municipalities to offer people easier ways to be vaccinated, and urged employers to promote vaccination for their own sake.

“Vaccination protects me [to] 90% from a serious corona disease,” Braun said, adding that anyone who receives the shot and does not fall ill when the disease strikes “would be urgently needed at their workplace.”

Merkel’s chief of staff also blamed pretty much all seasonal epidemics on those unwilling to be vaccinated. Germany does not have high infection rates from vaccinated people, even if some laboratory tests detect the virus in their bodies, he said. High infection rates are a result of “serious infections in the unvaccinated population if the vaccination rate is not high enough,” he added.

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Over 3,800 Germans got sick with Covid-19 following full vaccination, hundreds were hospitalized – health watchdog

When asked whether slapping a certain part of the population with targeted restrictions is legally permissible, Braun said that the state “has a duty to protect the health of its citizens.” He also claimed that Germany might avoid another total lockdown if the vaccination rate is high enough.

Some politicians, however, believe that Berlin would overstep its boundaries if it introduces such restrictions.

The deputy head of the Free Democratic Party, Wolfgang Kubicki, blasted the proposed measures as de facto “introduction of compulsory vaccination through the back door.”

Such a categorization of fundamental rights into a first and second class is clearly unconstitutional.

Merkel earlier limited herself to saying that “the more who are vaccinated, the freer we will be again.” She did not mention any of the measures proposed by Braun.

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Pediatrician Anila Sternberg vaccinates a woman with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine in her practice, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Bonn, Germany, May 21, 2021. © REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler
Germany will not make Covid jabs mandatory, Merkel confirms, with voluntary vaccination held up as way forward

Armin Laschet, Merkel’s potential successor and her party’s candidate for chancellor in the September general election, also distanced himself from what he called compulsory vaccination, and attempts to “indirectly put pressure on people to get vaccinated.”

In a free country, there are civil liberties not only for certain groups.

Just over 49% of Germans were fully vaccinated as of July 23, according to the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s government agency responsible for disease control and prevention. More than 60% of Germans have received at least one vaccine dose. However, German media reports that vaccination rates have been gradually declining.

If Germany does introduce restrictions for unvaccinated people, it would not be the first European country to do so. In neighboring France, President Emmanuel Macron’s government has already introduced ‘health passes’, which are required for people to enter certain public venues. People who have recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months or have a recent negative PCR test can also receive the passes.

The measure, which was introduced along with a vaccination mandate for healthcare workers, has sparked massive public uproar and prompted tens of thousands of people to take to the streets for two weekends in a row to voice their discontent.

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50. US vows to continue airstrikes in Afghanistan, as general insists ‘Taliban victory is not inevitable’Пн, 26 июл[−]

The head of the US Central Command has promised that despite the withdrawal, the US military will continue supporting the Afghan government with airstrikes against the advancing Taliban militants, at least “in the coming weeks.”

“The Taliban are attempting to create a sense of inevitability about their campaign. They are wrong,” General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of the US Central Command, told reporters in Kabul over the weekend.

Since the US began its withdrawal in May, the advance by the Taliban has intensified, with militants now claiming to have gained control of more than 80% of Afghanistan. In response, the US military has supported the government’s efforts against the Taliban through air strikes.

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FILE PHOTO: A US soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walks with the unit's Afghan interpreter before a mission near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan, December 11, 2014. © Reuters / Lucas Jackson
The resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan is simply America’s chickens coming home to roost

“The United States has increased air strikes in support of Afghan forces over the last several days, and we are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks,” the general said.

US President Joe Biden has said a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years could be done by the end of August. He had originally set a goal of leaving by September 11, symbolically marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks which were used as a pretext to invade the country.

McKenzie would not say whether air raids would continue once US forces have left the region, but admitted that Afghanistan will be facing a “stern test” in the coming weeks.

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FILE PHOTO. Afghan Taliban fighters. © Getty Images / NurPhoto
Russia defends ongoing talks with Taliban, saying banned militant group is key part of plan to bring peace to war-torn Afghanistan

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51. 10 killed, 44 injured as bus swerves off highway and crashes in Croatia (PHOTOS)Вс, 25 июл[−]

Ten people have lost their lives and at least 44, including children, have been injured, after a bus traveling from Germany swerved off the highway in Croatia after the driver apparently briefly fell asleep.

The incident took place early on Sunday morning. The bus was traveling along a highway linking the Croatian capital of Zagreb to the Serbian border when it suddenly swerved off the road and overturned. Photos published on social media show the bus lying on its side on a roadside.

Police said the bus had Kosovo license plates and was traveling a regular route from Frankfurt, Germany, to Kosovo’s capital of Pristina, south of Serbia.

The accident was reportedly caused by one driver briefly falling asleep and losing control over the vehicle. He survived the crash and was arrested. A local police chief, Franjo Galic, called the crash “one of the worst accidents I have ever seen.” At least 10 people, including the other driver, died in the crash.

According to the officials, 67 people were on the bus, including two drivers. They were mostly Kosovan workers and their family members returning home from Germany for the summer holidays, some media reports suggested.

The incident also left 44 people, including at least one child, injured. Eight people were in a serious condition, according to Josip Samardzic, the head of a hospital in a nearby town of Slavonski Brod. The identities and ages of the people that were killed and injured in the crash have not yet been made public.

Croatian authorities expressed their condolences to the relatives of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to those injured. Kosovo sent its interior minister to Croatia over the incident.

Traffic on the highway was halted for hours until the bus was removed. The road where the crash happened is usually very busy in summer since it is a popular route used by tourists and foreign workers returning from Western Europe to the Balkan countries.

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A video posted on Twitter shows the aftermath of a car plowing through sidewalk cafes in Marbella, Spain,
Car plows into pedestrians in popular tourist area of Spain's Costa del Sol (VIDEOS)

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52. IDF soldier SUES Ben & Jerry’s for pulling his ‘preferred’ ice cream from occupied Palestinian territoryВс, 25 июл[−]

An Israel Defense Forces soldier is attempting to sue Ben & Jerry’s for withdrawing its ice cream from sale in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory, arguing that he’s been deprived from his “preferred” dessert.

The complaint was filed by the 20-year-old soldier’s mother, Adv. Orly Ben Ami, on his behalf, and it claims the man will be unfairly denied the ice cream while on military patrol in the occupied territories, Ynetnews reported.

“The Ben & Jerry’s brand ice cream is his preferred one,” read the complaint, which claimed his “military service requires him to have long and frequent drives in the territories, and often time he purchased ice cream in different businesses.”

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FILE PHOTO: A sign of Ben & Jerry's, a Unilever brand, is seen in London, Britain, October 5, 2020.
‘Are they going to bomb Vermont?’ Israel gets skewered after claiming Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream boycott is ‘new form of terrorism’

Now, as a result of Ben & Jerry’s recent decision to discontinue sales in the occupied territory and its “judgemental position” on the conflict, the ice-cream fan complained he is “unable to enjoy” the ice cream “like everyone” else. It also paints him as a human rights abuser, the complaint says.

The soldier’s ice cream related woes were quickly mocked on social media, with Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Abraham Gutman joking that the “privileged” soldier’s “right to eat Chunky Monkey while occupying” has been “infringed upon.”

Others compared the news to a recent Onion satire article about a similar, but fictional, Israeli soldier who laments the withdrawal of sales by reminiscing about how he used to stop “by the Ben & Jerry’s store to grab a serving of Phish Food or Cherry Garcia before bursting into a Palestinian family’s home in the middle of the night.”

After Ben & Jerry’s announced last Monday that it would stop selling ice cream in the occupied territory – though not the rest of Israel – Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned the decision would have “serious consequences, legal and otherwise” and announced that Israel would “act aggressively” toward boycotts. He even said the company’s decision showed it had rebranded as “antisemitic ice cream.”

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also called on Israelis to not buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in protest.

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(L) Netanyahu. © Reuters / Miriam Alster; (R) © Getty Images / Jerritt Clark
Netanyahu tells Israelis ‘NOT to buy’ Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after company stops sales in ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’

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53. Shanghai evacuates HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS, cancels flights & suspends train services as Typhoon In-Fa hits China’s coast (VIDEO)Вс, 25 июл[−]

Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from the coastal areas of the Chinese city of Shanghai as Typhoon In-Fa hits the coast to its south. All flights to the city and high-speed train services have been suspended.

Shanghai issued the second-highest-level typhoon warning as In-Fa is expected to hit the city’s southern Pudong district in another landfall later on Sunday. One video posted to social media shows the sky over the city darkened by black storm clouds brooding over Shanghai’s skyscrapers.

Around 330,000 people were evacuated from the city’s coastal areas, including the Fengxian District. Over 100,000 civil servants and workers were deployed to the city’s streets as part of the massive flood prevention measures initiated by the authorities.

All passenger flights to and from Shanghai’s two airports were canceled on Sunday. The city’s ports – some of the world’s busiest shipping hubs – evacuated thousands of vessels. The international airport of Hangzhou – a city southwest of Shanghai – canceled all flights as well.

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Rescue workers operate a front loader to evacuate residents on a flooded road following heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China July 22, 2021. © REUTERS/Aly Song
Hundreds of thousands evacuated from areas devastated by floods as China death toll rises to 33 and more rain forecast (VIDEO)

Several bus lines in Shanghai were also suspended to prevent busses from crossing bridges over some rivers. All high-speed trains bound for Shanghai were suspended starting Sunday evening.

The typhoon already hit the city of Zhanshan in the Zhejiang province south of Shanghai earlier on Sunday, with winds reaching speeds of more than 136kph, according to Chinese media. Another video posted online shows winds ripping through a street at incredible speed.

The typhoon is expected to swirl through Hangzhou Bay and make another landfall later on Sunday, potentially affecting the Zhejiang province and Shanghai. Footage shows people in the city already seeking shelter from the heavy rain and strong wind.

The typhoon comes as China reels from the devastating floods that hit the central Henan province, claiming the lives of dozens of people and prompting the authorities to evacuate hundreds of thousands.

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54. ‘This is not freedom’: Macron denounces ‘irresponsibility and egoism’ of those who refuse Covid jabВс, 25 июл[−]

French President Emmanuel Macron argued on Sunday that refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is not “freedom” because anti-vaxxers infect and kill others through their “irresponsibility” and “egoism.”

Macron said during a visit to French Polynesia that though “everyone is free to express themselves,” there is “no such thing as freedom where I owe nothing to anyone.”

What is your freedom worth if you say to me ‘I don’t want to be vaccinated,’ but tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself?

The French president argued that freedom “rests on a sense of reciprocal duty,” not selfishness. Macron also floated the possibility of a patient in hospital getting less medical attention as a result of medical professionals helping another person who refused the vaccine.

“This is not freedom, it is called irresponsibility, egoism,” Macron declared, issuing a “very strong message” for “everyone to get vaccinated.”

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FIERCE CLASHES between protesters & police in Paris as tens of thousands rally against Covid certs, vax mandates in France (VIDEO)

Tens of thousands of people in France protested the government’s decision to introduce a vaccine passport and mandatory vaccination for certain professions this weekend. France’s vaccine passport will prohibit people from entering restaurants, bars, museums, and more if they cannot provide evidence of vaccination or a recent negative test.

Similar massive protests against vaccine passports and lockdown restrictions have also been held in the UK, Italy, and Australia.

London protesters held signs that read “No to forced testing” and “No to forced vaccination” during a “Freedom Rally” of thousands on Saturday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last Monday that proof of vaccination would soon be required to enter nightclubs and other establishments.

Following the news that Italy planned to introduce a similar vaccine passport system, thousands of Italian protesters marched across the country, including Rome and Turin, with some comparing Prime Minister Mario Draghi to Adolf Hitler.

Though a vaccine passport system has not yet been introduced in Australia, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Sydney on Saturday to campaign against the city's strict lockdown restrictions.

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File photo: Protest against 'health pass' announced by French President Emmanuel Macron, July 17, 2021.
French hospital goes on INDEFINITE strike to protest Covid-19 vaccination mandate

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55. ‘Draghi Like Hitler’: Protesters slam Italian PM for introducing Covid health pass, call it discriminatory (VIDEO)Вс, 25 июл[−]

Protests against the Italian government’s plan to introduce health passes were held in more than 80 locations on Saturday, where people denounced the measure as discriminatory.

Around 3,000 rallied in Rome and 5,000 in Turin, the capital of the northwestern Piedmont region, while smaller protests were held elsewhere across the country, Italian media said. Overall, demonstrations were reported in more than 80 cities and towns.

People took to the streets to denounce the plan of the government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi to introduce a health pass, known as the ‘Green Pass’. The document serves as proof that a person has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, has tested negative for Covid-19 in the last 48 hours, or has recovered from the virus.

Starting from August 6, only Green Pass holders will be allowed into cafes, restaurants, gyms, and open-air shows.

Protesters view the measure as discriminatory. Some marched with signs that read, ‘Draghi Like Hitler’ and ‘Freedom, No More Dictatorship’, while others carried Italian flags and lit flares.

“We say no to the Green Pass because it creates A-class and B-class citizens – those who have rights and those who have no rights,” a protester in Rome told RT's Ruptly video agency. “This is against Italy's constitution.”

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FIERCE CLASHES between protesters & police in Paris as tens of thousands rally against Covid certs, vax mandates in France (VIDEO)

La Stampa newspaper reported that some business owners took part in the protest, fearing that the introduction of the pass will lead to a drop in clientele and endanger their livelihood.

Draghi said the Green Pass is necessary to stop the spread of the disease and restart the economy. Some politicians criticized Saturday’s protests.

“Hearing words like ‘slavery’ and ‘Covid scam’ makes me shudder. According to these irresponsible [people], 130,000 deaths were perhaps only imaginary,” Senator Licia Ronzulli from the center-right Forza Italia party said, as quoted by La Stampa.

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56. ‘Filthy, disgusting & selfish’: Australian leaders blast anti-lockdown protesters, unleash ‘strike force’ to track them downВс, 25 июл[−]

Australian police have already issued hundreds of fines in the wake of mass anti-lockdown rallies, and are looking for more info about the violators, as state leaders condemn protesters for endangering other people’s lives.

In just 24 hours after Saturday’s mass protest, police in New South Wales issued 510 penalty infringement notices, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. He vowed that the authorities will continue to investigate the acts of “violent, filthy, risky” behavior.

A strike force is set up right at this moment that continues to ask for people to bring forward any video files or telephone footage that they have of that sort of behaviour.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott earlier announced that at least 22 veteran detectives will be working as part of a special unit to identify and track down people who attended the rallies.

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Police arrest a man at an anti-lockdown protest in Sydney, Australia, July 24, 2021. © Steven Saphore/AFP
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State Premier Gladys Berejiklian echoed these sentiments, saying she was “absolutely disgusted” by the mass gatherings, and urging anyone who recognized any of the activists to contact police immediately.

I’m just so utterly disgusted, disappointed and heartbroken that people don’t consider the safety and wellbeing of their fellow citizens.

NSW reported two deaths and 141 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, which is slightly lower than the day before. Authorities, however, have hinted that as the protest risks turning into a superspreader event, the month-long lockdown in Sydney might be extended even further.

“We don’t want a setback, and yesterday could have been a setback – time will tell,” Berejiklian said. The state’s current lockdown rules bar residents from leaving home except to obtain food and other “essential” goods and services, for medical care, including vaccinations, and for outdoor exercise and “essential” work.

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The state of Victoria in the meantime recorded only 11 new cases, but Premier Daniel Andrews blasted the protesters for putting “many other people in real danger,” and said that he could not rule out that the state’s own lockdown will also be extended.

We can’t vaccinate against selfishness, and these people should be ashamed, absolutely ashamed, it’s just wrong.

Since the pandemic began, Australia has repeatedly staved off the spread of Covid-19 with some of the world’s most draconian lockdown measures, in pursuit of driving new cases down to zero even at the expense of civil liberties. Over the course of the pandemic, the country recorded just over 32,700 cases and 916 total deaths.

On Saturday, thousands of people sickened by perpetual restrictions and confinement marched through major Australian cities, chanting “Freedom!” and clashing with police who were deployed to disperse these “illegal gatherings.”

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FIERCE CLASHES between protesters & police in Paris as tens of thousands rally against Covid certs, vax mandates in France (VIDEO)

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57. FIERCE CLASHES between protesters & police in Paris as tens of thousands rally against Covid certs, vax mandates in France (VIDEO)Сб, 24 июл[−]

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of French cities for the second weekend in a row to protest against health passes and mandatory vaccination for medics. In Paris, rallies ended up in scuffles with police.

Law enforcement officers in the French capital used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds as the situation on the streets spiraled out of control during the massive demonstrations provoked by the government’s plans to extend health passes for public places and enforce mandatory vaccination for certain jobs, including health workers.

Videos published on social media showed a crowd of angry young people forcing police officers to retreat from the Champs-Elysees by blocking the road, pelting officers with various objects and even attacking police vans. Law enforcement responded by deploying water cannon to disperse the crowd.

Elsewhere in Paris, a tense standoff between officers in riot gear and demonstrators ended up in a brief but fierce scuffle that prompted the police to use tear gas. In another incident, a crowd attacked a police motorbike by pelting it with bottles, forcing law enforcement officers to intervene.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the French capital to join at least three major rallies. One of them, attended by people wearing yellow vests – a sign of another major anti-government movement – was organized near the Place de la Bastille.

Another one – organized by the Eurosceptic ‘Patriots’ party – was organized at Trocadero, just across the river from the Eiffel Tower. Another group of protesters planned their march through central Paris.

At least nine people were detained in Paris following the clashes, according to the French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Massive rallies were also held in other French cities such as Marseille. In the city of Lille, 2,000 protesters took to the streets while demonstrations in Strasbourg were joined by 4,000 people. Most of the rallies were peaceful but Paris was not the only city to see some violent actions.

In the western city of Poitiers, a group of protesters stormed a local town hall. A video published on social media showed some of them allegedly throwing a portrait of President Emmanuel Macron as well as some documents out of the town-hall window as crowds cheer.

A total of 161,000 people took part in 168 protest actions across France, Le Parisien reported, citing the interior ministry’s data. Some 11,000 demonstrated in Paris alone.

The protests that gripped the French capital and other cities throughout the country for the second weekend in a row were sparked by the government’s decision to extend a special certificate requirement for people visiting various public areas as well as to prolong a compulsory vaccination mandate for certain jobs, including medics.

Earlier this week, the authorities announced that a special certificate, proving that a person is either vaccinated or has recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months or has a recent negative Covid-19 test, would be required to enter museums, cinemas or swimming pools.

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A man shows a health pass to a security agent in front of the Louvre museum entrance amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in Paris, France, July 21, 2021. © REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
Entry denied: France’s Covid-19 vaccine passport now required for museums, cinemas or swimming pools

The ‘pass sanitaire,’ which is being introduced gradually, will also be required from the start of August to enter restaurants and bars and for long-distance train and plane journeys. Previously, the pass had only been required for people attending large-scale festivals or clubbing.

Over the weekend French lawmakers are expected to vote on the extension. On Saturday, the issue was debated in the state Senate.

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58. German cops identify over 1,600 suspects in sting op on online chat groups where child porn & zoophilia materials were distributedСб, 24 июл[−]

Police in Germany have identified more than 1,600 potential child sex-abuse suspects who participated in online chat groups on which child pornography and zoophilia material was shared. Many of the suspects are reportedly minors.

While most of the suspects came from across the country, digital forensic experts had picked out people from the US, Austria, Switzerland and France on suspicion of possessing or sharing images of child sex abuse in the chat groups.

According to a press statement from Bavarian police, the suspects were being evaluated as part of “two large-scale trials” being prepared by police and prosecutors. If convicted, all suspects, including the minors, would be looking at a prison term of "not less than a year.”

Police officers in the Bavarian town of Amberg had been on to the online chats after coming across an advertisement earlier in March. The chats contained graphic videos and images of sex acts with children, adolescents and animals.

Hinting at the scale of the five-month investigation, Amberg police said that they had "several hundred thousand" pages of information on the suspects – enough to fit in “21 large moving boxes.”

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“The distribution of child and adolescent pornography has increased markedly in recent years and is an area of focus for us in many investigations,” Peter Krämer, deputy head of criminal police investigations in Amberg, said.

“As well as people with pedophile tendencies, it is often children and adolescents who share material like this in group chats without thinking, and who therefore regularly open themselves up to criminal prosecution," he added.

The investigators also warned that even membership in such group chats would be enough grounds for prosecution in Germany – since it pointed to the possibility of an individual either having access to, or possessing copies of, the photos and videos on their devices.

"That is why our appeal is particularly aimed at parents to sensitize their children to this issue," Krämer said.

The statement noted that the early use of smartphones by young children had opened up the possibility of them being exposed to such illegal content.

Earlier in the year, German authorities arrested four people after a raid on a dark-web club that had some 400,000 users.

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59. China blacklists former US Commerce Secretary Ross & other officials in tit-for-tat reply to restrictions over Hong KongСб, 24 июл[−]

In a tit-for-tat measure, Beijing has sanctioned six US nationals and one entity, on a list that includes a former secretary of commerce, in response to recent restrictions placed on China over Hong Kong.

The sanctions list includes Wilbur Ross, who served as Commerce Secretary during then-President Donald Trump’s trade war against Beijing. Last year, Ross called China “the principal military and economic threat” in Asia.

Other blacklisted Americans include US-China Economic and Security Review Commission chief Carolyn Bartholomew, former Staff Director of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China Jonathan Stivers, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs researcher DoYun Kim, as well as Adam King, a senior program manager at the International Republican Institute, and Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

China’s response has also blacklisted the Hong Kong Democratic Council (HKDC), a Washington-based group that supports anti-Beijing protests in China’s self-governing city.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson explained that the sanctions have been applied in direct response to the hostile actions of the US over the crackdown on the protests in Hong Kong.

“Any attempt by external forces to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs would be as futile as an ant trying to shake a big tree,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

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On July 16, the US government warned American businesses against dealing in Hong Kong, citing “clear operational, financial, legal and reputational risks for multinational firms.” Washington also sanctioned seven officials at mainland China's liaison office in the city.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the restrictions placed US nationals and entities as “baseless.”

“We’re undeterred by these actions and we will remain fully committed to implementing all relevant US sanctions authorities,” she said, adding that the move is a sign of “Beijing’s further isolation from the world.”

HKDC’s Managing Director Samuel Chu called being blacklisted by Beijing “a badge of honor,” and vowed that the group would keep pursuing its cause.

The blacklisted HRW official Sophie Richardson said everyone “should be laser-focused on ending human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government.”

In recent years, the US has placed several rounds of restrictions on Chinese officials and entities over issues concerning Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. China responded by accusing the US of violating international law and of meddling in its domestic affairs.

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60. ‘Hurt dignity’: China complains after US broadcast of Olympics leaves Taiwan off Chinese mapСб, 24 июл[−]

The Chinese consulate in New York has complained to NBC after the United States’ official broadcast of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics left Taiwan and the South China Sea off a map of China.

After NBC Sports’ broadcast showed a map of China without Taiwan and the South China Sea – both disputed territories of China – the Chinese Consulate General in New York took to social media to protest the decision.

“Using a wrong map of China is a real lack of common sense,” wrote the Consulate General on Twitter and Instagram. “Politicizing sports and violating the Olympics Charter spirits will only do harm to the Olympic Games and the relationship between the Chinese and the US people.”

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In an official Chinese statement, the Consulate General went one step further, accusing NBC of hurting “the dignity and emotions of the Chinese people.”

“We urge the NBC to recognize the serious nature of this problem and take measures to correct the error,” the statement declared, warning that “attempts to use the Olympic Games to play political ‘tricks’ and [for] self-promotion to achieve ulterior goals will never succeed.”

The Chinese Global Times newspaper also condemned NBC’s map display in an editorial on Saturday, claiming that, “for a long time, NBC has been vicious to China,” and pointing out other instances of what it alleged to be anti-Chinese bias, including Japanese broadcaster NHK referring to the “Chinese Taipei” Olympic team as “Taiwan.”

“In general, we need to keep our eyes open. We hope experts on Olympic issues can actively join in to assess the various suspicious acts pointed out by netizens in a timely manner,” the newspaper concluded, accusing “Japanese forces” of “attempting to take advantage of the Olympics to engage in political conspiracies” and play “dirty tricks.”

NBC, the official US broadcaster of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters on the matter.
Though Taiwan has sought a level of independence and self-governance from mainland China, Beijing maintains that the island is still Chinese territory.

The US has not formally recognized Taiwan as an independent country, but has also not hidden its apparent support for Taiwanese independence. President Joe Biden’s administration has ramped up its diplomacy with Taiwan – further straining Washington’s relationship with Beijing – with an unofficial delegation of US diplomats visiting the island in April despite the US’ official policy of working with Taiwan only through mainland China.

In late June, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “the complete reunification of the motherland” and “solving the Taiwan question,” expressing his support for “resolutely smashing any ‘Taiwan independence’ plots.” Xi also warned foreign countries against trying to “bully, oppress, or subjugate” China, claiming that the time of his nation being bullied by foreign powers was “gone forever.”

Tensions between the US and China have also been high due to disputes over the South China Sea, which was absent from NBC’s map of China, too.

After Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared this month that the US stands with China’s opponents in the South China Sea territory dispute, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called it “extremely irresponsible of the US to deliberately provoke controversy over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea” and to “sow discord among China and ASEAN countries.”

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61. Anxiety & depression in children are on the rise. What can we do to help them if Covid restrictions return?Сб, 24 июл[−]

Lockdowns have severely damaged children’s mental health, studies across the globe show. Amid the risk of new restrictions due to the Delta variant, RT asked experts what can be done to prevent aggravating their suffering.

With the Covid Delta variant spreading across the globe, the concept of ‘pandemic fatigue’ is back in the headlines. One by one, countries are bringing back restrictions that everybody hoped were lifted forever. According to the World Health Organization, pandemic fatigue is “an expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis” not just related to the virus itself, but to the “invasive measures with unprecedented impacts on the daily lives of everyone.” In this context, reimposed restrictive measures would not be “unprecedented,” but would this make them less harmful? Only if we draw conclusions from our recent experience, psychologists suggest, and prepare ourselves and our loved ones for the difficulties to come.

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It’s clear that children are among those more exposed to the psychological effect of Covid and all the related restrictions. “Anxiety, sleeping disorders, problems with planning things, with adapting the mind to different conditions – these are the symptoms that emerged earlier as a reaction to the shocking situation, and are still present,” Professor Rocio Lavigne Cervan from the Department of Evolutionary Psychology and Education at University of Malaga in Spain, told RT. “All these factors together are harming children’s daily routine, learning process, social and family life.”

Prof. Lavigne participated in a study aimed at analyzing how confinement impacted on Spanish children’s psychological stability. And the results were extremely worrying. Out of 1,028 participants aged from six to 18, 66.9% of children and 67.9% of adolescents showed medium to high levels of anxiety.

The problem here is not just a temporary one, experts warn. If not addressed properly, it may last for a long time – possibly even forever. Professor Francesco Benedetti, group leader of the Research Unit in Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, Italy, explained, “In some cases, anxious reactions are expected to vanish when life returns to its normal course. But unfortunately, the traumatic events experienced in early ages may trigger psychiatric disorders.”

In the age when many important relationships develop for the first time, being forcibly separated from their peers, facing a major social-life disruption, being forced to live in a confined environment – all these factors should be considered a major trauma.

“Given my personal history of psychiatric research, I also have to point to disregarded biological effects of home seclusion: circadian (sleep-wake cycle) rhythms disruption via reducing the exposure to synchronizers (daylight and darkness, plus physical exercise in the open air), and also exposure to increased light pollution from computer monitors and other electronic devices,” the professor added. “All together played a major role in the reported increase of insomnia and use of tranquilizers – plus, we know that disrupting internal timing has a major effect in triggering mood disorders.”

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When exposed to these unprecedented conditions, children need support from adults – in the majority of cases, their parents. But the pandemic lockdowns were a shock for everyone, so not all of them could give their kids a helping hand. “A psychologist may try to give parents certain tools to improve their family relations, but if the adults themselves show symptoms of anxiety or other problems, they won’t be able to help their children,” said Prof. Lavigne. “The families where both children and parents have problems require help, because the adults’ problems will be reflected in their children. Parents with problems don’t have enough tolerance, patience, and don’t have the ability to help their children to face everyday problems.”

So, there’s a need to go to a psychologist not only when a problem has already emerged, but when it’s still possible to prevent it from happening. I think it would be healthier for everybody.

Psychology Professor from the University of Malaga, Almudena Gimenez de la Pena, says that parents’ help was especially crucial for small children. “Kids younger than 12 were affected harder, as they needed more attention,” she told RT. But surprisingly, some older kids turned the difficulties into a tool for development. “They showed very good abilities to search information online and resolve their problems on their own,” Prof. Gimenez continued. “Parents complained that their children couldn’t communicate enough with their friends. But actually, it was a problem for kids under 12, while those older switched to their gadgets for online communication. A lot of people even complained that children came too deep into the virtual world.”

The same ‘technological skills’ became very useful when learning from home turned into an everyday routine. “Children older than 14 started to solve their problems on their own. If there was something that teachers were unable to explain, they searched for answers on the internet,” Prof. Gimenez said.

Impact of homeschooling

According to UNICEF, schools for more than 168 million children globally have been completely closed for almost an entire year due to lockdowns. Prof. Gimenez, together with a team of international specialists, completed a study analyzing the problems of families during this tough period. Researchers surveyed people from seven European countries, and realized that the problems were relatively common for all families affected.

“The first problem was lack of information. Parents have been complaining that they didn’t know what to do and how to help their children in studying,” Prof. Gimenez told RT. “Second, some education for parents was needed as well, to show them how to use school materials, as well as new technology. And then there’s the third problem – access to gadgets. Small children don’t have their own computers. Also, not every child had the chance to freely use a computer at home, as during the lockdown parents also had to work from home.”

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Also, according to the study, negative experiences were more common in families with a child with a mental health condition. “There’s a huge difference between the families that have a member with certain types of special needs, and those who don’t. Families with no members with special needs had fewer problems; generally they complained about technical stuff or lack of information. But the families who have someone with disorders or special needs were damaged a lot,” Prof. Gimenez explained. “They didn’t get the help they were used to.”

Before the pandemic children attended special lessons helping them with math, reading, or other subjects they had problems with. Almost all of this support was lost.

At the same time, Prof. Gimenez realized that children with adaptation problems felt much better during homeschooling. “They could adjust the education to their personal rhythm and they had their parents closer,” she said.

Still, as Prof. Lavigne noted, the end of the lockdown didn’t bring an end to the problems. “A lot of issues started after the lockdown – the need to isolate at home after having contacted someone Covid-positive, no chance to organize family gatherings, no possibility to meet friends as was possible before. Or, for example, in case of a sudden confinement of a town, children who play sports having to cancel their games in the places nearby. It’s all a bit chaotic. And it all causes damage even worse than the lockdown itself did.”

‘Antidepressants are not a solution’

One of the concerning side effects of Covid-related depression was a significant rise in the prescription of medication, to both adults and young people. In Spain, almost 6% of the population were treated with anxiolytics (drugs against anxiety) or antidepressants. Italy observed a 12% rise in the purchase of anxiolytics in 2020.

According to recent research based on NHS data, the number of patients younger than 17 who were prescribed antidepressants increased by 26% between April 2015 and April 2020. The peak was observed in March 2020, when the UK went into its first lockdown. Numbers showed two further peaks of antidepressant prescriptions seen around the time of the second and third lockdowns, in December 2020 and January 2021.

“A lot of studies show that commonly prescribed psychotropic drugs can have unpredictable effects on children and adolescents, followed by paradoxical worsening of the most dangerous psychopathological symptoms,” Prof. Benedetti warned. “These drugs have been thoroughly tested for safety in adults, but their effects on the developing brain are different. Commonly prescribed antidepressants can worsen suicidal ideation and trigger self-harming and suicide attempts.”

There is no doubt that psychotropics should be prescribed to young people only upon a real need, and carefully monitored for their potential behavioral side effects.

“The possible efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions should always be considered first, and anyway, psychotherapy should always be combined with drugs, even when they are necessary.”

Prof. Lavigne agreed, “Antidepressants are not a solution. Well, when a doctor is prescribing a medicine, that’s because it is needed. But it won’t help on its own. Only combined therapy, when the drug is taken together with psychotherapy, will have an effect.”

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Even when prescribed, the medicine should be taken with caution, as Prof. Benedetti explains. He said, “Some patients develop tolerance to the effects of drugs, which lose efficacy over time leading to the need of increasing dosage to obtain the same effects. This is particularly evident for benzodiazepine tranquilizers. Population research completed soon before the Covid pandemic showed that a substantial proportion of children and adolescents continued benzodiazepine treatment for six months or longer, despite recommendations calling for short-term treatment. There is no doubt that initiating these treatments should be a decision carefully weighed against other options.”

What can be done?

Despite all the anxiety adults are experiencing themselves, experts warn that now is the time to help their children, before it is too late. “It’s crucial to prevent the current problems from turning into chronic ones,” Prof. Lavigne stressed.

According to Prof. Benedetti, the methods of treatment shouldn’t be too complicated. “It is needed, as soon as possible, to exploit the natural healing power of our body. Children have to use any possible occasion to stay out in the light, play and exercise their muscles, socialize with their friends,” he told RT. “Problems in the rhythms of sleep and activities can be managed with chronotherapeutic interventions – light therapy in the morning, with physical exercise; darkness and rest in the evening – and also avoiding pollution by the blue components of the light spectrum coming out from computer monitors and other electronic devices, which can disrupt sleep and circadian rhythms.”

These simple methods can be more effective than drugs in fostering a normal activity-rest rhythm, and in restoring sleeping, which has been disrupted by the lack of exposure to the normal circadian synchronizers, and by the excessive exposure to artificial light.

And, certainly, moral support may help the healing better than any drug. “Many children and adolescents now face anxious reactions when coming out from their homes: This should not immediately be diagnosed as a mental disturbance and medicated,” Prof. Benedetti insisted. “Facing anxiety, and letting it flood, together with the support of a loved one who can encourage without judging, are expected to be followed by habituation and lead to the restoring of the normal rhythms of life in the large majority of cases.”

“Family matters a lot,” Prof. Gimenez agreed. “Children can cope with restrictions if their parents are available to help. But the children from families with problems suffered a lot.”

Those who had strong family ties reinforced them even more.

“We don’t know how long the pandemic will last,” admitted Prof. Lavigne. “This feeling of uncertainty is developing anxiety in both children and their parents.”

Still, even the dark times may have a silver lining. “Spanish and Italian parents – as these countries are traditionally more family-oriented – even said they got benefits from the lockdown,” said Prof. Gimenez. “They could spend more time with their children, to play with them or to cook together.”

‘Great example of the moral sense’

And now we find ourselves potentially back to square one. What if the worst forecast becomes reality, and lockdowns – together with homeschooling – return in the near future? “In case of the lockdown, we would have to structure our life to make it look as ordinary as possible,” Prof. Lavigne said. “Children will have to do physical exercises at home and follow the schedule – when to wake up, to eat, everything by plan. Now, we are all a bit more connected than before, virtual activities do work, and we have more tools to use them.

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“The advantage we have now is the knowledge that online systems do work,” she concluded. “Life can go on, but in a more virtual way. Those who need therapy may get it online. A lot of centers cancelled therapy during the lockdown and had to close. But others tried to provide therapy online and proved the effectiveness.”

“We learned something from the lockdown,” Prof Gimenez agreed. “But we can’t change everything. School is not just a place for studies; it’s a place where children are socializing, doing sports, and developing their personality out of the family. It can’t be replaced by education via computer.”

Prof. Benedetti thinks that new Covid variants, of course, should be addressed with all the attention they need, but without panic, and ideally, without the need to challenge children’s psychological stability. “I sometimes read in newspapers people complaining against the ‘selfish’ or ‘irresponsible’ behavior of young people – who actually, in my view, just tried to preserve their social identity and their developing personality in these difficult times. My view is the opposite: Children and adolescents gave a great example of discipline, unselfishness, even self-denial in favor of the community of the adults, which did not always treat them well. A great example of the moral sense is deeply rooted in young people, against all odds.”

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62. Venezuela accuses US military aircraft of violating its airspace from Colombia, warns it might ‘respond forcefully’Сб, 24 июл[−]

Venezuela's defense ministry has accused Washington of “flagrant provocation” after a US military plane allegedly flew into its territory from Colombia. According to Caracas, the US violated its airspace over 20 times this year.

A C-17 military transport aircraft belonging to the US Air Force flew into Venezuela’s Zulia state, which borders Colombia, on Thursday evening, its Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez said in a statement. The plane allegedly flew on this course for some 14 nautical miles (26 kilometers), the ministry said. It added that US planes had allegedly crossed into the country on 21 occasions this year, calling it a “serious violation of international aeronautical standards.”

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Washington has not immediately commented, according to Reuters.

The “flagrant provocation” happened as part of joint military drills in Colombia in which American fighter jets are participating, Venezuela said. “Reconnaissance tasks are being carried out towards the Venezuelan geographical area,” it alleged, condemning the US military presence in Colombia, which, it said, “significantly affects stability” in the whole South American and Caribbean region.

President Nicolas Maduro “has issued precise orders to remain alert and respond forcefully to any act of aggression,” the statement said.

This month, Venezuela reported a full-scale military operation in the capital, with government troops fighting a major criminal organization. During the operation, authorities seized a large arsenal of weapons, claiming these were of Colombian and American origin. They have also identified some of the gang’s arrested members as right-wing Colombian paramilitaries and accused Bogota and its partners in Washington of attempting to destabilize the situation in Caracas and to instigate violence.

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The US doesn’t recognize President Nicolas Maduro as the legitimate leader and has been involved in a years-long effort to topple the Venezuelan socialist government through economic sanctions and other measures. Washington, along with the majority of European and South American nations consider opposition politician Juan Guaido to be the legitimate leader, following a 2018 presidential election, however, his numerous attempts to install himself in Caracas have so far failed. Nations like China, Russia, Iran, and Turkey continue to consider Maduro to be president of the country.

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63. Disgruntled Australians scuffle with police at banned ‘Freedom’ marches as Covid-19 lockdown extended in Sydney (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)Сб, 24 июл[−]

Thousands of anti-lockdown activists marched through major Australian cities on Saturday, following an extension of Covid-19 restrictions. Multiple people were arrested and dozens charged with offenses after brawls broke out.

Protesters chanted “Freedom” as they descended on downtown Sydney without wearing masks. They blocked traffic and walked through Haymarket, a suburb that was labeled a coronavirus hotspot by New South Wales’ (NSW) top health official, Jeremy McAnulty.

NSW police declared the gathering illegal due to Covid-19 regulations that bar people from different households getting together.

Scuffles broke out after mounted police and officers on foot were deployed to disperse the crowd.

Australian media reported that some threw items at the officers and pepper spray was used against the protesters. Several demonstrators were pinned to the ground during arrests. One activist was filmed performing tricks with fire batons in front of a crowd.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said 57 were charged, some of them with multiple offenses, and more than 90 infringement notices were issued.

“What we saw today was 3,500 very selfish boofheads – people that thought the law didn’t apply to them,” Elliott said, urging all participants to get tested for Covid-19. He added that blatant disregard for quarantine rules would only prolong the lockdown.

The minister announced that a strike force of 22 detectives had been set up to identify and track down people attending Saturday’s rally.

Similar protests were held in Melbourne, where flares were lit outside Parliament House and arrests were made, and also in Brisbane. The rallies included anti-vaccination activists.

The strict lockdowns in Greater Sydney and the state of Victoria were recently extended until July 30 and July 27 respectively, after the situation regarding coronavirus cases failed to improve. On Friday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described the outbreak of the more contagious Delta variant as a “national emergency.”

New South Wales, which includes Sydney, reported 163 locally transmitted cases on Saturday, marking a new daily record. Victoria, where Melbourne is located, registered 12 locally transmitted cases.

As with previous public gatherings, officials actively tried to discourage people from rallying during the pandemic. Australian Health Minister Brad Hazzard said anyone attending anti-lockdown protests was “really silly.”

“At the present time, we’ve got cases going through the roof, and we have people thinking that it’s OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration,” he said.

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64. Massive column of smoke visible for MILES as huge fire rages through warehouse in northern France (VIDEOS)Пт, 23 июл[−]

Enormous plumes of black smoke have been billowing into the skies of northern France after a huge blaze broke out in a large warehouse in Bondues, not far from Lille.

The fire broke out at an industrial zone in the small town of Bondues, located near the French border with Belgium. The blaze was so massive that the cascading plumes of smoke rising over the site have been seen as far away as the city of Lille, some 10 kilometers to the south.

Photos and videos shared on social media showed not just smoke, but huge tongues of flame rising above one of the warehouses in the Bondues industrial zone. Dozens of firefighters have been sent to contain the blaze, according to local media reports.

The 500-square-meter storage facility belongs to the Vandenbulcke company – a food wholesaler specializing in bakery products, French media said. No injuries have been reported, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

The sight of the blaze drew onlookers to such an extent that it led to several traffic jams in the area, as motorists were slowing down out of “curiosity,” according to local reports. The cause of the fire is still unclear.

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65. French hospital goes on INDEFINITE strike to protest Covid-19 vaccination mandateПт, 23 июл[−]

The staff of the hospital in Montelimar, in the French department of Drome, have gone on indefinite strike to protest the new rules demanding they take a vaccine against Covid-19 by mid-September or face losing their jobs.

The strike against “forced vaccination” was announced on Thursday by the CGT-GHPP trade union, and affects some 200 doctors and 1,500 nurses in the southeastern French city.

Hundreds of them gathered outside the hospital on Friday, denouncing lockdowns and vaccine mandates and chanting “liberté!” (freedom).

The French legislature is finalizing the proposal that would require all medical professionals in contact with the vulnerable to be fully vaccinated by September 15, or else lose their salaries and even their jobs.

“We are against mandatory vaccination and vaccine coercion,” Elsa Ruillere, local union representative, told Sputnik France. “There is no choice between tests or vaccination: vaccination is compulsory. No, we don't agree. We want to have the choice like the rest of the world and we do not want compulsory vaccination.”

Ruillere says her union supports “free and informed consent” and is not against vaccination on principle but is against coercion. Some of the medical workers said they are waiting for the French-made Sanofi-GSK vaccine, promised for December.

“We are well aware of the evolution of the virus. We do not take it lightly,” Ruillere said. However, she and her striking colleagues point out that even with the rise in positive tests for the Delta variant of the coronavirus, there is no commensurate rise in hospitalizations.

“Yes, we turned ‘red’ but that's in fact due to the positive tests. In terms of hospitalizations, we are fine at the moment, we did not need to reopen beds, we have far fewer hospitalized people than before and fewer people in intensive care,” she added.

Another union gripe is the lack of public debate, since France’s National Assembly seems to have simply proceeded on the advice of the High Health Authority (HAS), which called the vaccination mandate “justified.”

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There have been widespread protests in France since mid-July, as the government of President Emmanuel Macron imposed the vaccination mandate on health workers and introduced a health pass requirement to access public venues with more than 50 people in attendance. The pass requirement will extend to cafes, restaurants and shops starting August 1.

There has been a 150% increase in coronavirus cases over the past week in France, attributed to the Delta variant. The government says 96% of those infected are unvaccinated.

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66. Gunshots and teargas reported at funeral of slain Haitian president Jovenel Mo?seПт, 23 июл[−]

Mourners reportedly scrambled for cover amid gunshots at the funeral of slain Haitian President Jovenel Mo?se. With the motive for Mo?se’s assassination still unclear, protests raged as the deceased leader was laid to rest.

Foreign dignitaries, including a US delegation led by UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, were rushed to their vehicles during a funeral service for Moïse on Friday, Reuters reported. Witnesses at the service described smelling tear gas and hearing what sounded like gunshots outside the auditorium in Cap-Haitien, where the Catholic funeral was held. Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles also described the noises as “gunshots.”

According to Reuters’ sources, there was no immediate danger to funeral attendees.

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However, Moïse’s supporters have launched angry demonstrations in the two weeks since their leader’s assassination. On the eve of the funeral service, they fired guns and burned tires in the streets of the northern city of Cap-Haitien, Moïse’s hometown. Even during the funeral service, shouts of protest could be heard from outside, and Haitian officials were accosted as they entered the mass.

“Why do you have all this security, where were the police on the day of the president's assassination?” Reuters quoted one protester as shouting at police chief Leon Charles, whom he called a “criminal.”

Demonstrators set tires on fire during a protest against the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, July 22, 2021 © Reuters / Ricardo Arduengo
A man argues with a Haitian National Police officer during a protest against the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, July 22, 2021 Reuters / Ricardo Arduengo

About Moïse’s assassination, little is known for sure. The president was gunned down at his home near the capital Port-au-Prince earlier this month, and Haitian security officers have arrested two dozen suspects, most of them Colombian mercenaries believed to have been hired through private security firms. In Washington on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby admitted that at least seven of these mercenaries had received US training in the past, but stressed that this training is “very common” for soldiers in countries allied with the US, and was not linked to the assassination.

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Several Haitian-Americans have also been brought into custody, one of whom previously worked as a confidential source for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). An unnamed US law enforcement official told Reuters last week that the source was not an active informant at the time Moïse was killed, however.

A former banana exporter, Moïse was elected to the presidency in 2016. His tenure was characterized by political unrest and a proliferation of gang violence, the latter of which he had promised to get under control. His killing has set off a scramble for power and a flurry of political maneuvering in Port-au-Prince, with acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph assuming presidential duties before resigning in less than two weeks, as the US and UN switched to backing his rival, neurosurgeon Ariel Henry. Shortly before his death, Moïse had tapped Henry to take over as premier.

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67. Beijing sanctions several Americans, including former US commerce secretary, in first use of new law against anti-China penaltiesПт, 23 июл[−]

The Chinese government has announced counter-sanctions against several Americans, including current and former officials, marking the first time that Beijing has used its newly passed legislation on such action.

Former US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross was among those blacklisted by the Chinese government on Friday, as Beijing hit back at Washington over US sanctions imposed on Chinese officials relating to the alleged crackdown in Hong Kong.

In addition to Ross, Beijing imposed sanctions on a number of current and former US officials. Many are, or have been, the heads of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

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The sanctions are the first imposed under China’s anti-foreign-sanction law, passed in June. The law reportedly allows Beijing to hit back after foreign states impose punitive measures on Chinese citizens and companies.

The move comes just days before US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to visit China as part of her official trip to Asia, which also includes stops in Japan and South Korea.

Last week Washington imposed sanctions on seven Chinese officials supposedly culpable for undermining democracy in Hong Kong. All of the individuals sanctioned were deputy directors at the liaison office, according to online bios.

The two countries have traded numerous diplomatic blows in recent years, with the US frequently resorting to targeted sanctions. China has vowed to protect its citizens and companies from American interference.

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68. Over 140 Palestinians injured as Israeli forces use rubber bullets and tear gas to break up West Bank protest (PHOTOS, VIDEO)Пт, 23 июл[−]

Scores of Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank town of Beita, medics said. Protests there have been ongoing for several months, since Israel installed an outpost settlement in the area.

At least 146 Palestinians were “injured by live and rubber bullets and tear gas canisters during the confrontations with the occupation in Beita,” the Palestinian Red Crescent reported on Friday. Nine civilians were wounded by live bullets, the Palestinian Shehab News Agency reported, citing a Red Crescent official.

Palestinian media outlets shared images of stone-slinging rioters and injured protesters being stretchered away by medics. Video footage also shows the Palestinians kicking away tear gas canisters.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl rocks at Israeli forces during confrontaions in the town of Beita, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, on July 23, 2021 © AFP / Jaafar Ashtiyeah

The clashes took place several hours after Israeli forces rolled into Beita and reportedly raided a number of houses. Violent protests have been a regular occurrence there since May, inflamed by the construction of an Israeli outpost settlement atop nearby Jabal Sbeih. The outpost itself was illegal even under Israeli law and was evacuated last month, but the structures were left intact, stoking concern among Palestinians that they could simply be re-occupied at any time.

Moreover, while Israeli civilians have left the outpost, it will remain in use by the Israel Defense Forces as an observation post.

Palestinian protesters confront Israeli forces in the town of Beita, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, on July 23, 2021, after a protest against the Israeli outpost of Eviatar. © JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP

Palestinian protesters use slingshots to hurl rocks at Israeli forces during confrontaions in the town of Beita, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, on July 23, 2021 © AFP / Jaafar Ashtiyeah

Supported by successive Israeli governments, the West Bank settlements have attracted international condemnation. The land they are built on is recognized as Palestinian under international law, and by the UN.

Earlier this month, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Michael Lynk, said that “the Israeli settlements do amount to a war crime.” He then called on the international community to take more active steps to force Tel Aviv to abandon this policy.

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69. India’s opposition demands inquiry into alleged govt ‘treason’ over use of Pegasus spywareПт, 23 июл[−]

A key opposition figure in India has called for an investigation into the use of the Pegasus spyware software and accused PM Narendra Modi’s government of “treason” for its alleged deployment of the surveillance tech.

Speaking on Friday in the wake of a series of reports about the alleged use of the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware by a number of governments worldwide, Rahul Gandhi called for officials in India to investigate how widespread the impact was against the Indian state and institutions.

Gandhi, whose name was included among a list of Indian politicians, journalists and government critics allegedly targeted, accused the Modi administration of “treason” following reports of its involvement.

Pegasus is classified by the Israeli state as a weapon and that weapon is supposed to be used against terrorists.

The database of phone numbers of more than 50,000 individuals allegedly targeted around the world using the software was obtained by French media outlet Forbidden Stories and human rights group Amnesty International, with over a dozen partnered news organizations reporting the details since Sunday. Among the numbers on the list, more than 1,000 are from India, with 300 affected individuals identified so far.

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Modi’s government has not denied that covert surveillance occurred or that the Pegasus software was used to spy on Indian citizens, but stated that any monitoring was done in accordance with existing Indian rules.

Pegasus worked by infecting phones using spear-phishing to convince victims to click a malicious link in a text message or email. However, it is thought that further developments allowed the spyware to exploit vulnerabilities in a phone’s operating system to infiltrate the device in a ‘zero-click’ attack.

The software hails from Israeli firm NSO Group, which has “firmly” denied “false claims” made by The Guardian and other outlets about who is targeted by the tool. It said journalists are spreading “uncorroborated theories” that are “based on misleading interpretation of leaked data from accessible and overt basic information.”

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70. Slovak police unleash tear gas as anti-Covid demonstrators push into parliament in BratislavaПт, 23 июл[−]

Slovakian riot police launched tear gas on demonstrators in the capital of Bratislava after some of those protesting against Covid restrictions managed to force their way into the parliament building.

A crowd of hundreds gathered outside the country’s national parliament on Friday, with some forcing their way inside and riot police deploying tear gas.

Demonstrators could be heard chanting “gestapo” while holding banners saying “stop corona fascism” as Covid restriction amendments proposed by the government were debated by parliament. The amendments would give people vaccinated against Covid easier access to public spaces like restaurants, cafes or mass events.

Several protestors launched ketchup and eggs at the parliament building, local reports said. Videos posted online showed riot police lined up outside the building as a growing body of protesters gathered in front.

Friday’s protests are not an isolated event, with demonstrations against the state’s Covid-19 curbs breaking out on Wednesday near a Hungarian-Slovak crossing, as well as at a border town in the north near Czechia. Some 50 protestors caused traffic disruptions by forming a human chain to protest recent laws that require unvaccinated commuters to show a PCR test less than a week old at the Slovak border, according to local reports.

Slovakia has resorted to creative measures in a bid to increase coronavirus inoculation rates in the country. One of the recent incentives was a vaccine lottery, with over €2 million up for grabs. Prizes would also be available for Slovaks who convince others to get vaccinated, including large sums if elderly people could be swayed.

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The country’s vaccine rollout is considerably slow in comparison to other members of the EU. Figures from Our World in Data show that as of July 22, less than 41% of Slovakia’s population has received one shot and about one third are fully vaccinated.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Slovakia has recorded just over 392,000 cases, while more than 12,500 have succumbed to the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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71. Canadian memorial to victims of communism received private donations in memory of Nazi collaborators and war criminals – reportsПт, 23 июл[−]

A controversial memorial being built in Canada to honor victims of communist regimes has reportedly received donations in the name of Nazi collaborators and war criminals. The monument is chiefly funded by the federal government.

The Memorial to the Victims of Communism, which is under construction in Ottawa, has received letters of support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other political figures. Former PM Stephen Harper and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney have backed the project as well.

In addition to receiving an estimated Can$7.5 million (US$5.96 million) in public funds, the ‘Tribute to Liberty’ charity running the troubled project has also solicited private donations of $1,000 each through a “buy-a-brick” campaign that dedicates a “virtual brick” to alleged victims of communism.

A list of some 600 victims is being drawn up by the charity and the Department of Canadian Heritage to be included in the memorial. However, a list published online by the group reportedly features known fascists with donor groups apparently attempting to “sanitize” their records.

Virtual bricks have been purchased in the names of Ante Paveli?, the leader of the Nazi puppet Ustaša regime that ran the Independent State of Croatia during World War II. Other prominent Ustaša officials Mile Budak and Ivan Oršani? were also included in the list.

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Paveli? has been described as the chief perpetrator of the Holocaust in the Balkans. Under Ustaša rule, an estimated 32,000 Jews, 25,000 Roma and 330,000 Serbs were killed.

Although references to Paveli? and Budak have since been removed from the list, they were apparently described simply as a “doctor of laws” and “poet” respectively by the donor group, the General Committee of United Croats of Canada, when making their contribution.

Ludwik Klimkowski, who chairs the charity’s board, told CBC News that it was “premature” to talk about specific individuals on the list when it was still being vetted by both the group and Canadian Heritage. He said the review process was expected to conclude in December.

However, Canadian Heritage told the public broadcaster that it is currently only reviewing the list of names that have been proposed for the monument and not the names listed on the charity’s website.

Another controversial inclusion on the online list is Roman Shukhevych, the wartime leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) who is said to be responsible for the deaths of several thousands of Belarusians, Jews, Poles and Ukrainians.

Virtual bricks in his memory were purchased by the League of Ukrainian Canadians Edmonton Branch. Shukhevych’s reference on the website only notes that he “fought to rid Ukraine of enslavement from Soviet Communist rule.”

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“If Canada commemorates Ante Paveli? or Roman Shukhevych, it can throw its human rights record right in the trash,” Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, told the outlet.

In a report to Canadian Heritage, Carleton University historian Michael Petrou had reportedly red-flagged the names of unspecified individuals on the list who were Nazi collaborators or had been associated with fascist organizations active in Eastern Europe and the Balkans during WWII.

Petrou told CBC that he had also highlighted names on the list of individuals whose status as “victims of communism” could not be ascertained. For instance, a virtual brick paid for by Goldwood Industries Ltd. commemorates Jagat S. Uppal, a successful businessman in British Columbia.

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72. Hungary demands money Norway ‘owes’ after Nordic nation suspends financial aid over NGO funding rowПт, 23 июл[−]

Hungary’s government has criticized Norway after the Nordic country announced on Friday that it will refuse to pay €220 million ($259 million) in financial aid, due to Budapest’s failure to resolve a disagreement over NGO funding.

Earlier, Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Hungary had failed to comply with the requirement that “the fund for civil society must be administered independently of the authorities.”

The statement added that Hungary had accepted that requirement, but had failed to accept “the appointment of the best-qualified candidate for the task,” prompting Norwegian officials to suspend payment of the funding until the two sides can reach an agreement.

The decision sparked an angry rebuke from Hungary’s Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyas, who declared that “Norway owes us this money” as Oslo has benefited from its participation in the common market, despite not being an EU member state.

“We have not yet found a method through which the debt could be repaid now, but we are looking for it,” the minister also said in his remarks.

With the European Economic Area (EEA) acknowledging that “a strong civil society is a fundamental building block in a vibrant, well-functioning democracy,” Norway had pledged the money, which would go to Hungarian non-governmental organizations that foster civic participation.

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The decision to withhold the funding comes amid ongoing tension between Hungary and European nations over concerns that Budapest is undermining the rule of law, weakening judicial independence and threatening the rights of LGBT persons.

The disagreement was highlighted on Friday by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who accused the EU of engaging in an “ideological war” against his nation over demands that Budapest repeal its Children Protection Act, which the European bloc claims discriminates against LGBT people and violates its values.

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73. Moderna's Covid-19 jab given green light by EU drugs regulator for use in adolescentsПт, 23 июл[−]

The EU's medicines regulator has given its backing for Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine to be administered to minors aged between 12 and 17, citing positive results in trials involving 3,732 participants.

In a statement on Friday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave its recommendation for the Spikevax Covid-19 shot to be administered to adolescents aged 12-17. The Moderna vaccine, which is taken in a two-shot-regimen, is now the second Covid-19 jab which has been approved by the agency for use in those under the age of 18.

In its statement, the EMA recommended that the administration of the vaccine to adolescents should be the same as for those over the age of 18. Citing a trial which incorporated 3,732 children, the body said that the antibody response in adolescents appeared similar to that of 18-25-year-olds.

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The trial suggests that adolescents are prone to the usual, most common side-effects to the jab, including pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, as well as nausea, vomiting and fever. "These effects are usually mild or moderate and improve within a few days from the vaccination," the EMA said.

The agency added that it understands the trial size was not large enough to isolate new uncommon side effects, or the risk associated with known side effects such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).

The agency's statement on Friday noted that it will continue to evaluate the vaccine's safety and effectiveness as it is administered, and beyond.

Prior to Friday's backing, the Pfizer vaccine was the only Covid-19 jab approved by the EMA for use on minors.

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74. Monsoon rains trigger floods and landslides in India leaving at least 67 deadПт, 23 июл[−]

At least 67 people have died as monsoon rainfall sparked floods and landslides, primarily in the western Indian state of Maharashtra where some areas have received 23 inches of rain in 24 hours.

Authorities in Maharashtra have been forced to evacuate thousands of people from their homes as dangerously full dams released excess water, amid widespread flooding and landslides.

“Dams and rivers are overflowing. We are forced to release water from dams, and, accordingly, we are moving people residing near the riverbanks to safer places,” Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the head of Maharashtra’s state government, told journalists on Friday. He added that personnel from the navy and army were helping with relief efforts in coastal areas.

At least 36 people were killed when a landslide hit the small village of Taliye, which sits around 180 km (112 miles) southeast of Mumbai, the state’s most populous city, said Vijay Wadettiwar, a minister in the state government. It is feared that tens of people may still be trapped.

A further four died in Mumbai when a building collapsed, while 27 deaths have been linked to landslides and other phenomena associated with the monsoon rains.As much as 594 mm (23 inches) of rainfall have been recorded along parts of the west coast over the past 24 hours; the figure represents around a quarter of the expected annual rainfall for the state capital.

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Maharashtra is not the only state afflicted by the heavy rains; neighboring Karnataka and Telangana have also reported flooding. Footage shared online appears to show a town in Madhya Pradesh, a large landlocked state, effectively paralyzed by fast flowing water.

Every year the monsoon rains cause death and destruction across the Indian subcontinent but importantly bring 70% of the country’s rainfall, vital for farmers.

Experts say this year’s monsoon rain is the heaviest experienced in four decades. More than 30 people have died in Mumbai over the past week as buildings collapsed and walls fell.

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75. Great Barrier Reef avoids UNESCO endangered list after lobbying efforts from Australia and 11 other countriesПт, 23 июл[−]

The Great Barrier Reef will not join the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) endangered heritage list, after Australia and 11 countries applied pressure on the organization to reconsider.

Friday’s decision comes after Australia’s Environmental Minister, Sussan Ley, joined forces with 11 international ambassadors in June to lobby against UNESCO’s decision to place the reef on the list. Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the prospect of the reef being on the list as “absolutely appalling.”

While it was spared from being added to the list this year, the UN body said the decision would be reviewed in February 2022, as its ecosystem was still a victim of ever-worsening climate change. The 2,300km-long (1,400-mile-long) reef experienced three major mass bleaching events in 2016, 2017, and 2020, due to an increase in ocean temperatures.

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Considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world, it had almost been placed on the endangered list in 2015. UNESCO considered the speed of its degradation to be extremely alarming – it has lost 50% of its coral since 1995.

To be considered a candidate for the UNESCO ‘danger list’, a heritage site must be at risk of losing its status due to human or environmental factors, such as war, over-development, or natural disasters.

Australia boasts 20 other heritage sites on the UNESCO world heritage list, including the Sydney Opera House, Fraser Island, and the Blue Mountains.

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76. Up to 75% of new Covid cases in Singapore are in vaccinated people but getting jab lowers chances of serious illness, figures showПт, 23 июл[−]

Some 75% of people who got infected with Covid-19 in Singapore recently had been previously inoculated. None of them, however, got seriously ill, the health authorities said, encouraging further vaccinations.

In the last 28 days, 1,096 locally transmitted cases were detected in the country, freshly released statistics show. Some 48% of those who fell ill had been fully vaccinated, while a further 30% received only one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The rest of those who contracted coronavirus had not received any jabs at all. The fresh statistics reinforce the idea that, if not preventing the disease entirely, vaccination significantly lowers the chances of people becoming critically ill.

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"There is continuing evidence that vaccination helps to prevent serious disease when one gets infected. Over the last 28 days, seven local cases required oxygen supplementation, were admitted to ICU or passed away. Six are unvaccinated, one is partially vaccinated and none was fully vaccinated," the Singaporean health ministry said in a statement.

The high numbers of vaccinated people who got ill does not mean that vaccines are ineffective, particularly given extremely high inoculation rates in the country, health experts have noted.

"As more and more people are vaccinated in Singapore, we will see more infections happening among vaccinated people," Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore said, as quoted by Reuters. "It is important to always compare it against the proportion of people who remain unvaccinated."

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Around 75% of 5.7 million people living in Singapore have received at least one jab of a coronavirus vaccine. Around a half of the population in the country, which boasts one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, has been already inoculated in full.

Singapore has fared extremely well in the pandemic, registering only some 63,700 cases of the disease. It also boasts very low mortality rates, with only 36 people in the country succumbing to the disease thus far.

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77. ‘Baseless’: Kabul refutes Taliban’s claims that militant group controls 90% of Afghan borderПт, 23 июл[−]

A spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense has dismissed the Taliban’s claims that the organization controls 90% of the country’s borders, stating that the declaration was “baseless.”

Fawad Aman slammed these claims on Friday, claiming on Twitter that “the Taliban’s claim to control Afghanistan’s borders is a lie, and baseless – it is mostly propaganda.”

In a follow-up tweet, Aman said most of Afghanistan, including its borders, was still under the control of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), and the government was gradually regaining more territory “with each passing day.”

The dismissal of the Taliban’s claim comes after the militant group declared on Thursday that it controlled the borders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran, which it equated to being 90% of Afghanistan’s borderlands. The validity of the claim is difficult to verify.

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Danish Siddiqui, a Reuters photographer based in India, poses for a picture at Columbia University's Low Memorial Library during the Pulitzer Prize giving ceremony, in New York, US, May 30, 2018. © REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui killed in crossfire between Taliban and Afghan security forces

While it has certainly been making considerable territorial gains, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, has estimated that the Taliban controls less than it claims. The Pentagon theorized that the group was in command of more than half of Afghanistan’s districts as of July 21. The number of territories under Taliban control has nonetheless risen considerably since the US began withdrawing its troops – a process due to conclude on August 31 – after its two-decade long campaign in the country.

The Taliban seized the town of Spin Boldak on the Afghan-Pakistan border last week – a significant crossing between the two countries. On Thursday, some 100 civilians in the town were killed by the militants.

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78. 'Not a blame game': WHO urges collaboration after Beijing rejects proposed second probe into Covid-19 originsПт, 23 июл[−]

A World Health Organization spokesman has called on nations around the world to further their cooperation with the international body in finding the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking on Friday at a briefing in Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic urged nations not to think of investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic as political. "This is not about politics, it's not about a blame game," the spokesman said, adding that there was a real requirement for increased collaboration.

"It is about basically a requirement we all have to try to understand how the pathogen came into the human population. In this sense, countries really have the responsibility to work together and to work with WHO in a spirit of partnership," he stated.

Jasarevic's remarks come just a day after China refused to participate in a second probe concerning the origins of the virus, in which Beijing said that any proposed lab-leak theory goes against science.

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Zeng Yixin, deputy head of China's National Health Commission, said on Thursday that Beijing was surprised to see research into the lab-leak theory as a listed objective for the organization's proposed second visit to China and specifically Wuhan.

Last week, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that China had still not provided raw data from the early days of the pandemic. "Now we have designed the second phase of the study, and we are asking, actually, China to be transparent, open and cooperate," he stated.

Earlier this year, WHO experts spent around a month in China. Their report said that cases identified in Wuhan in 2019 were believed to have been acquired from "a zoonotic source, as many reported visiting or working in the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market."

Beijing has repeatedly called on the US and other nations to stop politicizing the issue of the pandemic's origin. However, on Wednesday the Chinese foreign ministry suggested, once again, that there should be a probe into the US' Fort Detrick biolab as an origin of the virus.

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79. Lockdown imposed on millions of children as Philippines battles soaring Covid casesПт, 23 июл[−]

The Philippines government has issued a stay-at-home order for millions of children aged five to 17, just weeks after Manila lifted a ban on minors at public gatherings, as the country battles soaring Covid cases.

The measure was announced on Friday by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque as the “more infectious and deadly” Delta variant spreads throughout the country, sending case numbers soaring and putting hospitals under severe strain.

The stricter Covid regulations have been imposed on four provinces, as well as on the region surrounding the national capital, in an attempt to limit the further spread of the Delta strain, after 47 cases of it were detected around Manila by the health department.

As well as requiring young people to remain at home, limits have been imposed on the number of people allowed in indoor dining venues, beauty salons and at religious gatherings. Border restrictions are also being faced by anyone travelling from Malaysia and Thailand, with bans also placed on travel to India, Indonesia and Pakistan.

The move came after the OCTA Covid research group warned that a surge “in its early stages has started in the National Capital Region.”

While Manila has led the country’s Covid response, it has opted for localized lockdowns, extended curfews and stay-at-home orders to control the spread of the virus.

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The country’s health department will now work with hospitals and medical facilities to ensure that they are equipped with enough beds, medicine, oxygen tanks and staff to cope if a surge breaks out.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Philippines has recorded more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of the virus and 26,874 deaths with the disease. With the country’s vaccination program underway, 14,465,786 doses have been administered. The nation's population is 108.1 million.

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80. Instagram restores posts issuing DEATH THREATS against Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, claiming these are in ‘public interest’Пт, 23 июл[−]

Despite its policy banning death threats against political figures, Instagram has cited “public interest” in restoring a number of clips calling for “Death to Khamenei” – a reference to the country’s supreme leader.

The platform had previously removed the videos, due to violations of its community guidelines against “violence and incitement.” The posts were mainly related to the ongoing protests over water shortages in the Islamic Republic’s Khuzestan province.

In a statement to the Middle East Eye news outlet, the company said the videos had been restored after it was decided that the phrase “Death to Khamenei” was being used as a “proxy to criticize and protest against the government”.

“Calling for the death of politicians is not allowed under our policies and we were initially removing posts that included #DeathtoKhamenei,” an unnamed spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, told the outlet.

“However, after evaluation, we became aware that this phrase is used as a proxy to criticize the Iranian government, rather than a violent threat, and restored posts that we initially removed. We solicited feedback from local experts and human rights experts in determining this,” the spokesperson said.

Although the company did not specify who the “experts” it consulted were, the blocked content was restored after some prominent Iranian personalities had accused the platform of censorship. Hip-hop artist Hichkas termed the removal of the posts “ridiculous.”

Over the past week, the oil-rich southwestern province has seen sometimes violent demonstrations, during which general anti-government slogans have been prominent. A number of deaths have been reported, after the security forces were mobilized to disperse the crowds.

“Officials have a duty to deal with Khuzestan’s current problems, and if someone thinks about the people, he cannot stay indifferent toward the difficult problems of Khuzestan. It is the urgent, clear and constant duty of governments to think about the people,” the ayatollah shared on his official Instagram account on Thursday.

In its community guidelines, Instagram notes that, while it removes content that contains “credible threats or hate speech” against private individuals, it “generally allows stronger conversation around people who are featured in the news or have a large public audience due to their profession or chosen activities.”

The guidelines are based on Facebook’s community standards. In its advice to moderators, the company says it accepts attacks against public individuals so as to “allow discussion, which often includes critical commentary.”

While it has a blanket ban on death threats against private individuals, Facebook needs proof that public figures have been “purposefully exposed” to “calls for deaths” to remove such content on its platforms. For instance, death threats against political leaders are apparently legitimate as long as the user making the threat does not tag them in the post.

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As well, the guidelines on violence and incitement prohibits posts such as “threats that could lead to death (and other forms of high-severity violence)” targeting people, including “content where a symbol represents the target”.

After the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani last year, Instagram had removed posts by Iranian media and users that either related to his killing or mentioned him. At least 15 journalists had also reported that their profiles were suspended and posts about Soleimani being permanently deleted.

In addition, the official accounts of some Iranian newspapers and news agencies had been deleted by the platform, according to the International Federation of Journalists.

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81. Austria’s Kurz vows ‘no stop’ to deportations of Afghan asylum seekers after policewoman assaultedПт, 23 июл[−]

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has pledged to continue deporting asylum-seekers back to Afghanistan, after a police officer was attacked at a detention center in Vienna.

“I wish the injured policewoman a speedy recovery,” Kurz said after the attack on Wednesday, as quoted by Austrian media.

It’s unacceptable when people come to us for protection, but neither abide by our laws nor accept our values. Incidents like this show why there must be no stop to deportations to Afghanistan.

A 28-year-old Afghan national, who was detained at a Vienna police station pending deportation, had punched and kicked a female police officer, and shouted misogynistic insults at her.

The man was ultimately subdued after other officers rushed to help. The policewoman was treated for injuries to her hand and neck.

Wednesday’s incident came after Austrian police arrested three Afghans suspected of involvement in the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl earlier this month.

Two suspects, aged 16 and 18, are asylum-seekers, while another, aged 23, has had his protected status revoked as result of three convictions, including a one for robbery. One of the men has denied any involvement in the sexual assault and the killing of the girl.

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The shocking case has reignited debates on the treatment of asylum-seekers in Austria. Three Austrian NGOs argued that the girl's death was being exploited as “racist diversionary maneuver” and used to stir “generalized, racist prejudices” against Afghans living in the country.

Kurz responded by saying that he opposes “any form of recasting perpetrators into victims.”

“There are truths that must be said and I will continue to say them,” the chancellor explained on July 8. “To speak about a ‘racist diversion’ is a mockery of the victims and a slap in the face to bereaved families.”

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82. Canadians in favor of renaming Toronto street bearing name of Scottish counter-abolitionist… until they hear the costПт, 23 июл[−]

A poll has shown that support for renaming a major Toronto artery currently named after a counter-abolitionist withers after respondents are informed of the eye-watering costs of rebranding civic assets.

Pollsters from Maru Public Opinion asked Toronto citizens whether they supported calls to rename one of the city’s most prominent arteries, Dundas Street, and other places bearing the name of the 18th-century Scottish minister.

The survey, conducted between July 9 and July 18, randomly selected 500 adults living in Toronto and delivered some surprising findings about people’s appetite for canceling street names deemed by some to be no longer appropriate.

Henry Dundas, also known as Lord Melville, was a prominent British politician of the Georgian era who hailed from Edinburgh. The Scottish politician reportedly never set foot in Toronto, despite being commemorated there, and many historians regard him as a leading figure in the campaign to prevent the abolition of the slave trade.

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Delaying the abolition meant hundreds of thousands were forced to wait decades longer for their freedom. Dundas, who served as Secretary of State for War from 1794 to 1801, also trafficked as many as 13,000 enslaved Africans into the British military.

There have been several calls over the years to remove the name from the former colonial outpost, with the demand for change growing stronger in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

The Maru Public Opinion poll found that 55% of respondents supported a move to rename Dundas Street and other locations such as Yonge-Dundas Square that bear his name.

However, support for the move fell when respondents were informed about the potential costs of the renaming. A whopping 61% opposed the call after being told about the cost to the city as well as “personal and business administrative requirements” that would be necessitated by the name change.

The Toronto authorities have put the cost of rebranding all civic assets bearing the Dundas name at around $6 million.

The poll results came after the city council voted 17-7 to launch a public consultation about renaming city landmark.

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The consultation follows a petition launched by local Andrew Lochhead to rename Dundas Street. He claimed it would be “a constructive and symbolic step toward disavowing its historic associations” with individuals associated with “racial inequality and exploitation.”

Lochhead described the Scot’s legacy as “highly problematic” and called for a consultation in partnership with “Black-led organizations and historical societies, [and] Indigenous groups and other community representatives.” The petition has so far been signed by some 15,000 people.

Dundas, who was also instrumental in the Scottish Enlightenment, Britain’s role in the French Revolutionary Wars, and imperial expansion in India, is remembered via monuments and street names across the Commonwealth, including a grade-A-listed monument in his hometown of Edinburgh.

In March, Edinburgh City Council approved a plaque for the monument reading: “At the top of this neoclassical column stands a statue of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742-1811).” The imposing column was vandalized during Black Lives Matter induced unrest in June 2020.

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83. US slanders effort to bring criminals to justice, Beijing says, as Chinese prosecutor charged over intimidating citizens to returnПт, 23 июл[−]

Washington is slandering the government’s efforts to pursue criminals overseas, Beijing has said, after a Chinese prosecutor was charged in the US over an alleged plot to bully citizens into returning to China.

The US Justice Department charged the Chinese national, identified as Tu Lan, on Thursday. The man, who has served as a prosecutor with the Hanyang People’s Procuratorate, became the ninth accused in the US case over an alleged covert operation known as “Operation Fox Hunt.”

The operation, said to have been launched around 2014, allegedly involved surveillance, stalking and harassment of Chinese nationals living in the United States in an attempt to make them return to China. The prosecutor has allegedly traveled to the US to personally direct the “stalking” of some of the country’s residents. Tu Lan is also accused of ordering another ‘co-conspirator’ to destroy evidence and to obstruct investigation.

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“As alleged, the defendants, acting as agents of the PRC, carried out an illegal and clandestine campaign to harass and threaten targeted U.S. residents in order to force them to return to the PRC,” Acting US Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said.

Unregistered, roving agents of a foreign power are not permitted to engage in secret surveillance of US residents on American soil, and their illegal conduct will be met with the full force of US law.

To repatriate any wanted criminals, the Chinese authorities should have cooperated with the US government, filing due paperwork, and should have registered with the Attorney General, Kasulis noted.

China’s foreign ministry responded to the charges on Friday, dismissing them as an attempt to slander its efforts at repatriating criminals. Speaking at a regular press briefing, the ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged the US to correct its “mistakes.”

The case over alleged Chinese covert activities on US soil was first announced last October. So far, charges have been brought against nine individuals, primarily Chinese nationals, as well as New York City-based private investigator and former police sergeant Michael McMahon.

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The latter denies all the charges, with his legal team denying that he “ever knew that, in his actions as a hired private investigator, he was acting in any way on behalf of the Chinese government.” The private eye had actually been “deceived and duped” to partake in the alleged plot by other co-conspirators, Lawrence Lustberg, McMahon's attorney, told Reuters.

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84. Hungary’s PM condemns EU’s ‘ideological war’ after bloc seeks two-month delay to country’s recovery-plan talksПт, 23 июл[−]

Hungary’s Viktor Orban has accused the European Union of engaging in an “ideological war” after the bloc sought to delay talks over his country’s recovery plan, amid ongoing disagreement about Budapest’s new anti-LGBTQ+ law.

Speaking on Friday, Hungary’s prime minister accused the EU of delaying finalizing the country’s pandemic recovery plan, due to ongoing row about the member state's recently implemented anti-LGBTQ+ law, titled the Children Protection Act.

“The way I see it now is that the EU will seek a two-month delay in the resumption of talks [over the recovery plan], but this calls into question the very essence of the fund,” Orban stated.

The EU has claimed that Hungary’s recovery plan is under evaluation after concerns were raised about systemic problems with the rule of law within the country, and with potential corruption. However, Orban denounced this as being just a “cover story” to allow the bloc to pursue an “ideological war” against his country.

“Corruption is often cited as an issue, but we were already close to an agreement. All of a sudden, after approving the law about the protection of children, we became very corrupt,” the premier said during an interview.

If Hungary’s post-pandemic recovery plan is approved, it would be in line to receive €7.2 billion ($8.47 billion) in grants from the EU.

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The Children Protection Act was implemented by the Hungarian government to officially safeguard children’s welfare and to tackle pedophilia, but has been condemned by the EU and rights groups for discriminating against LGBTQ+ individuals.

In response to the law, the EU launched legal action against Hungary, accusing it of being in contravention of Article 21 of the bloc’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which states that “stigmatizing LGBTIQ persons constitutes a clear breach of their fundamental right to dignity.”

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85. Orban announces mandatory coronavirus vaccine for Hungary’s healthcare workers and jabs for schoolkidsПт, 23 июл[−]

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has announced that coronavirus vaccinations will become mandatory for healthcare workers, and children are to be vaccinated before returning to school, in a bid to boost inoculation rates.

During a radio interview with ‘Good Morning, Hungary!’ on Friday, Orban unveiled his plans to boost immunization rates in the country, including mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers.

“Already there are certain vaccines that are mandatory for people working in the healthcare sector ... we have now extended this to coronavirus,” Orban said.

Despite initial reservations, Orban said he was convinced it was the best move to make, given a looming fourth wave of coronavirus infections in Europe.

In another move to bolster immunization rates, Orban proposed that school children over 12 are to be vaccinated before the start of the school year.

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Hungary’s move follows a similar path taken by France and Greece, with both countries declaring mandatory vaccinations for its healthcare workers on July 12, which sparked domestic protests that drew tens of thousands of people. France announced that if healthcare workers are not vaccinated by September 15, they run the risk of no longer being able to work or of having their salary withheld. In Greece, nursing-home staff were ordered to get vaccinated immediately, while healthcare workers were given a deadline of September 1.

Hungary also became the first country in Europe to offer a third booster shot to its citizens when the jab mandates were announced last week. Citizens will be able to receive a third jab from August 1 onwards.

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Around 55% of Hungary’s population are fully vaccinated, with 57% having received at least one dose. Hungary can partially attribute its decent vaccination coverage to its decision to approve Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm early in 2021, the country being the first member state of the EU bloc to approve the jabs. Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson&Johnson’s Janssen and AstraZeneca are also among Hungary’s eight approved vaccines.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Hungary has recorded almost 810,000 infections and just over 30,000 deaths.

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86. ‘Predatory & dangerous behavior’: Australian brand fined nearly $4 million over misleading advertising of ‘anti-viral’ activewearПт, 23 июл[−]

The brand was fined AU$5 million (some $3.7 million) by the Federal Court of Australia on Friday. In addition to the fine, the company was ordered to publish corrective notices for its ill-fated ad campaign.

Australian label Lorna Jane has been slapped with a huge fine over an advertising campaign that promoted clothes said to protect wearers from viruses such as Covid-19, having allegedly been treated with some miraculous compound.

The case against Lorna Jane stemmed from an advertising campaign, conducted back in July 2020, promoting a line of activewear that would allegedly protect wearers from bacteria and viruses, including Covid-19. The brand claimed the clothing had been treated with a mysterious, “water-based, non-toxic” solution, dubbed ‘LJ Shield’ that was somehow able to kill the germs.

Announcing the ruling, Judge Darryl Rangiah said the company had preyed on the uncertainty that prevailed during the coronavirus pandemic. It had misled its customers and sought “to profit from the fear,” pretending “it had a reasonable scientific or technological basis” for the claims, although it had none.

“Lorna Jane sought to exploit that fear and concern of the public through the use of misleading, deceptive, and untrue representations about the properties of LJ Shield activewear,” the judge said.

The behavior of Lorna Jane can only be described as exploitative, predatory and potentially dangerous.

Lorna Jane had already been fined AU$40,000 (nearly $28,000) for its stunt last year, but that did not spare the company from a lawsuit launched by the nation’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

“This was dreadful conduct, as it involved making serious claims regarding public health when there was no basis for them,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

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The company has accepted the court ruling, acknowledging it had misled its customers. Nonetheless, Lorna Jane CEO Bill Clarkson insists it was an honest mistake on the company’s part, rather than a case of deliberate false advertising. He shifted the blame for the LJ Shield fiasco on an undisclosed “trusted supplier” that had allegedly duped the company into thinking the technology was legitimate.

“A trusted supplier sold us a product that did not perform as promised,” Clarkson said in a statement. “They led us to believe the technology behind LJ Shield was being sold elsewhere in Australia, the USA, China, and Taiwan and that it was both antibacterial and antiviral. We believed we were passing on a benefit to our customers.”

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87. New South Wales premier sparks row with other Australian state leaders after requesting priority access to Covid-19 vaccinesПт, 23 июл[−]

A request to divert Covid-19 vaccines to Australia’s most afflicted state by the New South Wales premier has drawn the ire of other state leaders, who have turned down the call to readdress the country’s shot-sharing program.

Speaking at a televised news conference on Friday, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged the federal authorities to consider diverting vaccines to the ailing state.

“We need to get at least the first jab for as many people as we can in those affected communities as possible, and that’s why we are asking for a refocus of the national vaccination strategy,” she stated, noting that some parts of the country have no cases at all.

Berejiklian has labeled the situation a “national emergency,” with an outbreak in Sydney ballooning to nearly 1,800 cases since mid-June. On Friday, the premier said 136 new cases had been identified over the past 24 hours, a new record for the state, surpassing the 124 recorded a day prior.

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However, the NSW premier’s comments were not well received by other state leaders. South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said: “I’m not wanting to send any of our vaccination doses anywhere else,” while Victoria Premier Dan Andrews was more diplomatic, stating, “We need to be very careful when having a discussion about who we prioritize.”

Both Victoria and South Australia are under tough restrictions amid smaller outbreaks of the contagious Delta variant, some of which is believed to have been transported across state lines from New South Wales. Resultantly around half of the country’s population are subject to lockdown rules.

Only 15% of Australian adults have been inoculated against Covid-19 amid supply delays and warnings against the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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88. Pill version of Covid-19 vaccine to start clinical trial in IsraelПт, 23 июл[−]

A capsule version of the Covid-19 vaccine could be a “game changer” in countries with a low immunization rate, its developer has said.

Jerusalem-based Oramed Pharmaceuticals has received approval from the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center to start a clinical trial on 24 unvaccinated volunteers for a single-dose capsule version of a vaccine that is being developed by Indian firm Premas Biotech.

Oramed announced in March that it had tested its pill on pigs and the animals had produced antibodies after being administered it.

The company, which specializes in creating oral versions of drugs that are usually administered via an injection, is also currently conducting trials for its oral insulin capsule to treat type-2 diabetes. Existing Covid-19 vaccines are administrated via one or two injections.

Oramed CEO Nadav Kidron told the Times of Israel the trial for the Covid vaccine pill is expected to start next month, once it gains the final approval from the Health Ministry.

He said the capsule could be used as a booster against the more contagious Delta variant.

“Our oral vaccine, which doesn’t rely on a deep-freeze supply chain unlike other coronavirus vaccines, could mean all the difference between a country being able to emerge from the pandemic or not,” Kidron said, adding that an oral vaccine could be a “game changer” in counties with a low vaccination rate.

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89. Australia’s New South Wales declares ‘national emergency’ as state enters stricter lockdown following 136 new Covid casesПт, 23 июл[−]

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) is headed for yet another week of lockdown, as it announced a “national emergency” on the heels of 136 new coronavirus infections – a daily record so far for 2021.

“There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping they would at this stage,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday as she reported the spike in cases. She added that, while the new restrictions were currently set to end on July 30, they could be extended, should the need arise.

The record of 136 cases topped the previous high of 124, reached just a day prior, bringing the total number of infections tallied in the latest outbreak to around 1,900, according to Reuters. The first case was detected in Sydney in mid-June.

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NSW’s chief health officer Kerry Chant also noted that the situation – namely, in Greater Sydney, which covers a wide swath of the state – constituted a “national emergency,” and called on the central government to prioritize vaccinations in NSW.

The state’s latest lockdown rules bar residents from leaving home except to obtain food and other “essential” goods and services, for medical care, including vaccinations, and for outdoor exercise and “essential” work.

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Though Berejiklian does not have the authority to make a nationwide emergency declaration, she argued that the new cases in her state could later impact all of Australia, saying no border was “perfect” and infections could always “seep through.”

Indeed, neighboring Victoria and South Australia are also currently under restrictions, after both states reported surges in infections linked to the more contagious Delta variant, a mutation first observed in India. Around half of the country’s population of 26 million is now under lockdown.

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90. ‘Beginning’ of the end? Biden warns Cuba of looming torrent of sanctionsПт, 23 июл[−]

Decades after first placing Cuba under embargo, Washington has warned Havana that its number is up. US President Joe Biden has slapped sanctions on several Cuban officials, declaring “this is just the beginning.”

Biden has sanctioned the Cuban minister of defense, Alvaro Lopez Miera, and the “Boinas Negras” or Black Berets, a Special National Brigade within the Ministry of the Interior, citing their alleged role in repressing “peaceful, pro-democratic protests” starting July 11. The Biden administration warned it would continue to impose sanctions as punishment “to hold them accountable for their actions.”

“This is just the beginning – the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people,” Biden declared in an official announcement. The Cuban embassy has not responded in an official capacity as of Thursday afternoon.

Protests have reportedly taken place across some 40 cities in Cuba so far this month. The US response was organized on Wednesday night, via conference call, in coordination with Cuban-American activists in Miami who had been “calling for more action ever since the July 11 uprisings on the island,” according to Politico.

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It’s not clear which activists took part in the negotiations or what sort of political authority they actually have, if any, however. While the Biden administration claimed to have engaged “Cuban-American activists and leaders,” at least one of these leaders, Sasha Tirador, has been investigated in the past for election fraud.

Miami’s Cuban-American mayor, Francis Suarez, had been urging the Biden administration to unleash airstrikes on Havana, suggesting the country “liberate” Cuba the way it “liberated” Panama, Afghanistan, or Yugoslavia, with a coup or maybe some “humanitarian” bombing.

The Biden administration’s Cuban liaisons even want to expand the Magnitsky Act, which – as Tirador gleefully put it – “will hold each individual who violates human rights on the island of Cuba accountable.” However, Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) poured cold water on Biden’s muscle-flexing by noting that most Cuban officials are already under sanctions. Indeed, the whole country is under an embargo, so sanctions wouldn’t deliver the usual punch.

Rubio suggested Biden could restore the internet to the Cuban people, deploying high-altitude balloons – though the utility of the plan was deemed questionable, as others brainstormed more workable possibilities for re-establishing an online connection to the island. Onlookers were less than enthusiastic about Biden’s special plan to free Cuba, though.

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Journalist Glenn Greenwald appeared to compare the likely outcome to the blood left on Washington’s hands following the Arab Spring, after Biden tweeted his condemnation of “mass detentions and sham trials that are the Cuban regime’s efforts to threaten the Cuban people into silence,” hinting that such behavior was more in line with US allies such as Riyadh than Havana.

PressTV correspondent Wyatt Reed noted a disparity between US ally Colombia, where millions had hit the street in protest, and Cuba, where the protesters numbered in the thousands. Reminding US media that Cuban police hadn’t killed any protesters, only to be be sanctioned for their restraint, he pointed out that Colombia had reportedly killed at least 44, and that the violence was not only ongoing but had been blithely overlooked by the US, which didn’t seem to take offense at the deaths of the protesters at all.

A handful of US Republican pundits even showed up in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood to goad Biden into action. Fox News’ Sean Hannity devoted his hour-long show on Wednesday night entirely to the Cuban protests. It featured Rubio, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Florida), with Hannity wondering aloud whether Biden’s “doctrine” was “to kiss the ass of every single solitary dictator in the world.”

While Cuba had not been a foreign policy priority when Biden took office, the US president knows better than to let a good crisis go to waste. Despite a slow start, Biden last week declared Cuba a “failed state” and communism a “failed system.” The president also wants to dump piles of coronavirus vaccines on Havana, even though the country has developed several shots of its own.

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Screnshot from a Fox News video
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91. HARDCORE PORN proliferates across Washington Post, TEEN VOGUE, and others after X-rated site takes over video hosting domainПт, 23 июл[−]

Graphic clips have appeared on sites across the internet, including those of news outlets such as the Washington Post and even Teen Vogue, after a defunct video hosting platform lost its domain to an adult film company.

Videos once displaying advertisements and news stories have been replaced with hardcore pornography courtesy of 5 Star HD Porn, the firm that now controls the former domain of Vidme, a hosting project shut down in 2017.

The strange phenomenon was spotted by Twitter users on Thursday, with several screenshots captured before the sites could scrub the NSFW vids. They popped up on Fox, the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Newsweek, the Huffington Post and a long list of other major outlets. Some were still live at the time of writing.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the youth-oriented fashion and celebrity mag Teen Vogue was also swept up in the pornfest, seeing a wholesome, Christmas-themed article about pop singer Miley Cyrus transformed into an X-rated display.

For a brief time, an article at New York Magazine, appropriately headlined ‘John Boehner Answers Questions With Creepy Kissy Face’, was made all the creepier with the lewd videos, featuring titles such as ‘Naughty Spy Girls Part 2’ and ‘Bottoms Up, Brianna’. The mag appeared to have fixed the issue sometime on Thursday afternoon, however.

Though it’s not entirely clear how the mishap occurred, the URL ‘vid.me’ now redirects to the homepage of the porn site, while archived versions of some of the affected pages show they previously had Vidme content embedded.

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92. German TV reporter suspended by RTL after smearing mud on herself to dramatize on-scene report from deadly flood's aftermathПт, 23 июл[−]

German television reporter Susanna Ohlen was caught on video apparently trying to muddy herself before going on camera to report from a town devastated by last week’s deadly flooding, prompting her suspension by news outlet RTL.

Videos posted Thursday on social media showed Ohlen in the town of Bad Munstereifel, appearing to wipe mud on herself as her camera crew stood by. An online RTL report, which has since been deleted, said, “Numerous prominent helpers also lend a hand and actively support local people. One of them is Susanna Ohlen.”

The broadcaster issued a statement on Thursday afternoon saying that Ohlen had been suspended. “Our reporter's approach clearly contradicts journalistic principles and our own standards,” RTL said. “We therefore gave her a leave of absence on Monday, after we heard about it.”

As social media users pointed out, the media outlet made no mention of the embarrassing incident or its disciplinary action until days later, when the footage of Ohlen’s actions came to light. “Have you publicly discussed this incident and your moderator’s leave of absence or are we only now finding out about it because the video is currently making the rounds?” one Twitter commenter asked the broadcaster.

The 39-year-old Ohlen also reportedly posted a clip of herself on Instagram earlier, saying, “Everyone lends a hand here, grabs a shovel. If you have a shovel at home or a wheelbarrow, come here and get in touch.” She added that she has a holiday home near Bad Munstereifel, making the devastation even more emotional for her, “but of course, people stand together here. You help each other.”

At least 173 people were killed in Germany in the horrific floods, which hit some areas with the most rain seen in more than 100 years. German officials said on Thursday that they fear 158 people still missing may never be found.

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A view of a flooded area in Kyllburg, Germany July 15, 2021. © Reuters / TWITTER / @ReneNijholt
German interior minister rejects claim ‘systemic failure’ of govt responsible for high flood death toll

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93. Morocco SUING Amnesty International over claims it spied on French President Macron with Israeli malwareПт, 23 июл[−]

The Moroccan government is reportedly suing Amnesty International and a French NGO for defamation after the groups claimed Rabat’s agents used Israeli malware to spy on French politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron.

"The Moroccan state... wants all possible light cast on these false allegations from these two organizations, who make claims without any concrete or demonstrative evidence whatsoever," Olivier Baratelli, a lawyer for Morocco, said in a statement on Thursday, AFP reported.

According to data reviewed by Amnesty and Forbidden Stories, a French investigative organization, Moroccan intelligence agents used ‘Pegasus’ malware – developed by Israeli firm NSO – to spy on the phone communications of President Macron, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, 14 other ministers and several French journalists. The allegations were first reported on Monday by Le Monde, one of 17 media outlets the two organizations shared their data with.

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FILE PHOTO: Emmanuel Macron talks on the phone during an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 20, 2020 © Reuters / John Thys
Morocco spied on French President Macron with Israeli ‘Pegasus’ malware – reports

The Moroccan government immediately denied the accusations, calling them “unfounded and false,” and stating that it “never acquired computer software to infiltrate communication devices.”

Macron himself called an emergency security meeting on Thursday, a day after his office vowed to investigate the “very serious” allegations.

The defamation trial will likely not begin until next year, though a pretrial hearing is set for October in Paris. Prosecutors in the French capital have meanwhile launched their own investigation into the allegations of Moroccan espionage.

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(FILE PHOTO) © REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration
Hungarian prosecutors launch investigation into Pegasus scandal as Orban govt implicated in NSO surveillance allegations

Amnesty and Forbidden Stories got their hands on a leaked document from NSO allegedly listing 50,000 phone numbers of politicians, journalists, activists and business figures. These numbers were reportedly listed as being of interest to customers of NSO’s ‘Pegasus’ malware, which can covertly monitor phone calls, texts, and online communications of target cell phones. Not all 50,000 numbers were tracked, but a source told The Guardian that Pegasus’ 45 customers tracked an average of 112 numbers each.

Macron isn’t the only high-level political figure allegedly surveilled. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was reportedly spied on by the administration of his predecessor, President Enrique Peña Nieto. According to media reports, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also potentially used Pegasus to spy on a political opponent, as did Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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94. Russian-made air defense systems shot down ALL Israeli missiles targeting Syria’s Homs – militaryЧт, 22 июл[−]

All four missiles fired by Israeli warplanes at Syria’s Homs province early on Thursday were shot down by the Syrian Army using Russian-made ‘Buk’ air defense systems, the Russian military has revealed.

Two Israeli F-16 jets fired the guided missiles from Lebanese airspace, around 01:11 local time on Thursday.

“All four missiles were destroyed by on-duty Syrian air defense units, using Russian-made Buk-M2E systems,” the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria said in a statement.

Videos and photos of the intercepts have been making rounds on social media.

It was the second Israeli strike against Syria this week, coinciding with the Muslim high holiday of Eid al-Adha that began Monday.

On Tuesday, four Israeli jets fired eight missiles into Aleppo province, striking a scientific research facility in the town of Safira. Seven out of the eight were shot down, however, by Syrian air defense units using Buk-M2 and Pantsir-S weapons systems, the head of the Reconciliation Center, Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, said.

For Tuesday’s strike, the Israeli jets had penetrated Syrian airspace through the area of At-Tanf on the Jordanian border, controlled by the US military, the Reconciliation Center said.

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The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have launched airstrikes into Syrian territory for years, with Tel Aviv saying they were a self-defense measure aimed at “Iranian” targets in the country.

Damascus has protested the attacks, calling them acts of aggression. Earlier this month, Russia, Turkey and Iran jointly condemned the “continuous” Israeli attacks as violations of “international law, international humanitarian law, the sovereignty of Syria, and neighboring countries.”

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95. Unvaccinated Israelis will be denied entry to synagogue or anywhere with 100+ people, says PM BennettЧт, 22 июл[−]

Israelis who refuse the Covid-19 vaccine will soon be barred from any indoor or outdoor public venue holding 100 or more people, including synagogues, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has announced.

Those who refuse to get vaccinated “are undermining the efforts of all of us,” Bennett announced on Thursday, as the number of new coronavirus cases in Israel continued to rise. If everyone gets the vaccine, life can return to normal, but if a million people refuse the other eight million will have to endure lockdowns, he said.

“There’s a time when this discussion has to stop,” Bennett told the nation. “Science is clear: the vaccines work, they’re effective, they’re safe.”

As of August 8, Bennett announced, anyone who refuses to get vaccinated will no longer be allowed at any venue “above 100 people, both indoor and outdoor” – including theaters, sporting events, and houses of worship. To enter, people will have to show proof of vaccination, proof they had Covid-19 and recovered, or a negative test, obtained at their own expense.

Israel has been using the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA coronavirus vaccine. On Thursday, the Health Ministry in Tel Aviv said that its effectiveness in preventing infection and mild symptoms has decreased to only 40%, based on data collected over the past month as the Delta variant spread.

Two weeks ago, the Health Ministry had said the vaccine’s efficacy against symptomatic illness stood at 64% and against serious illness at 93%, according to the daily Haaretz.

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However, some health experts consulting the ministry have cautioned that the data might be too “distorted” because the studies were conducted in hot spots and among the elderly, rather than the young and the vaccinated.

Bennett, head of the right-wing Yamina party, is serving as alternating PM in partnership with Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party. Last month, their coalition successfully put together enough votes in the Knesset to end the 12-year reign of Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

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96. Faith-book? Users blast Facebook’s ‘creepy’ prayer tool after company admits it's used to create personalized adsЧт, 22 июл[−]

Facebook has come under fire on social media for being “creepy” after admitting that its controversial new prayer feature uses data collected from the ‘thoughts and prayers’ of its more religious users to create personalized ads.

The prayer feature, which was quietly rolled out to US-based Facebook Groups in May, is part of the tech giant’s focus on expanding engagement on its platform by tapping into faith groups. At the firm’s ‘Communities Summit’ in 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had hinted at this in his praise of churches.

Nona Jones, a pastor from Florida who is Facebook’s head of faith partnerships, told Reuters the new tool had been developed after the company saw a spike in the number of people asking for prayers during the Covid pandemic.

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It allows users in Facebook Groups that have enabled the feature to request prayers for a variety of reasons, including illnesses, upcoming tests, legal issues and other life events.

Other people can then reply by clicking a button to say “I prayed” and have their Facebook usernames listed under the prayer request. They can reportedly even opt to receive a notification to offer more prayers the next day.

However, just like the other content posted on the platform, these prayer posts are also used to churn out personalized ads, Jones said. A company spokesperson told the outlet that the data created from the prayer tool feeds into how Facebook’s adtech algorithms decide which ads to show users.

But the spokesperson claimed advertisers would not be able to directly target ads based on the prayer content or use of the tool. Using the tool apparently will not be factored into the interest-based categories like ‘faith’ or ‘Church’ that Facebook’s ad buyers use to classify audiences.

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy from the White House in Washington, U.S. July 19, 2021. © Reuters / Jonathan Ernst
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Although many religious leaders have reportedly welcomed Facebook’s attention at a time when worshippers are forced to stay at home, some users voiced concerns over the privacy of prayer posts, the potential exploitation of their spirituality, or how “icky” the whole thing felt.

“Anytime Facebook rolls out something new, you know it’s because they are hoping to make money off it... to eventually sell you something, somehow,” Simcha Fisher, a member of a Catholic women’s Facebook Group, told Reuters.

The majority of social media users echoed that sentiment, with some people claiming that they did not think the platform could “get any creepier” while another person claimed Facebook was being “subtle and crafty” for “easing into the one world religion through desensitization and deception.”

Others said the episode reminded them why they had left the platform, with one person who recently quit Facebook noting that this would have been the last straw if they were still undecided about leaving.

However, some users were cautiously optimistic about the feature, with one person suggesting that it seemed like a “good thing” before noting that “lots of things on Facebook seemed good at first.”

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97. Web down: Thousands of sites worldwide go dark after cloud services provider Akamai reports DNS ‘issue’Чт, 22 июл[−]

Video games, travel, web streaming services, banking, and shipping were among the industries affected by a problem with cloud provider Akamai Technologies, which appeared to have taken thousands of websites offline worldwide.

Google, AT&T, Amazon Web Services, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and GoDaddy domain services were among the companies that started reporting outages on Thursday morning.

Gaming platforms Steam and PlayStation Network, travel services Expedia and Airbnb, shipping giants UPS and FedEx, and banking and financial institutions such as Chase, Discover, Capital One, Fidelity, and American Express were among others to report disruptions to their web services.

The problem appears to be due to an “emergency issue” with the Edge DNS service at the provider Akamai, which said it was “aware” of the problem and “actively investigating” it. The Domain Name System (DNS) acts as the internet directory, translating website names (URL) into IP addresses.

Shortly before 1pm Eastern Time, Akamai issued an update saying it had “implemented a fix” that had resulted in the service ”resuming normal operations.” The company said the incident was “not a result of a cyberattack,” but occurred when "a software configuration update triggered a bug in the DNS system."

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98. Venice swerves UNESCO endangered status days after banning cruise ships from enteringЧт, 22 июл[−]

The lagoon city has avoided being placed on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) list of endangered sites, after the Italian government banned the docking of cruise ships in its waters.

Following a debate on the issue at a World Heritage Committee meeting, Venice will not now be named a UNESCO endangered heritage site, with Italy’s culture minister praising the government’s last-minute efforts to avert the ‘danger list’ status.

“Thanks to the government’s decision to stop big ships passing in front of St. Mark’s and down the Giudecca Canal, we have achieved a first, important result,” Dario Franceschini said, following the committee’s decision.

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This file photograph taken on October 2, 2020, shows an aerial view taken of a Mersey Ferry pulling away from Pier Head, near the Liver Building, as it travels on the River Mersey in Liverpool, north west England.
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Italy gave Venice’s waterways ‘national monument’ status and banned cruise liners from sailing into the city on July 13, with the law set to come into effect from August 1.

Franceschini insisted that UNESCO’s decision did not necessarily mean Venice was now in the clear, however, warning: “Now, global attention on Venice must remain high, and it is the duty of everyone to work for the protection of the lagoon and find a path of sustainable development for this unique reality.”

Venice has long been plagued by environmental issues, with water levels rising higher each year, placing the iconic lagoon city at risk. A climate change study conducted by the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy, and Sustainable Economic Development in 2018 projected that Venice, as well as other cities on Italy’s northern Adriatic coast, could be underwater by 2100.

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This year’s UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting, held in Fuzhou, China, had listed six other locations as potential candidates for endangered status, including Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, central Budapest and the banks of the Danube, the UK’s Stonehenge, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

To make the UNESCO ‘danger list’, a heritage site must be at risk of losing its status as a heritage site due either to man-made issues, such as war or over-development, or because of environmental causes, such as natural disasters. At present, 53 sites are on the endangered list, with only four of those located in the West.

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99. Indian govt slams ‘audacious’ study that suggested country’s Covid death toll is 10 times higher than officially reportedЧт, 22 июл[−]

The Indian government has sternly rebuffed a study that claimed the country’s Covid death toll is 10 times higher than officially recorded, arguing the research is an “audacious assumption” and “not based on facts.”

The statement comes after the Center for Global Development (CGD) claimed that India’s pandemic fatalities could be 3 to 4.7 million people – some 10 times higher than the official figure of 400,000. The group’s figure was based on excess death data covering January 2020 to June 2021.

The think tank argued that the true scale of the pandemic is “catastrophically worse” than Indian officials acknowledge, as over-stretched hospitals have been under-counting deaths and struggling to provide accurate information.

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FILE PHOTO. New Delhi, India. © AFP / Xavier GALIANA
’Catastrophically worse’: Scale of India’s Covid-19 deaths 10 times higher than officially reported – study

Responding to the report, the Indian government blasted the researchers for making an “audacious assumption” about the excess mortality data and saying they had ignored crucial factors, such as ethnicity, genomic constitution, race, previous exposure to viruses and potential immunity throughout the population.

In a statement on Thursday, the government said the study was “not based on facts and totally fallacious,” as it had assumed that all excess deaths were from coronavirus, rather than other causes.

Citing their “thorough contact tracing strategy” and testing capabilities, the Indian government added that “missing out on deaths is unlikely,” even if some cases are not detected.

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FILE PHOTO. Workers move the body of a person who died from the coronavirus disease inside the Kurukshetra crematorium in Surat, India.
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However, the government also added the caveat that the health ministry “only compiles and publishes data sent by the state governments,” and has called on regional officials to ensure they properly record pandemic fatalities.

The Modi administration’s confidence in its Covid case numbers and fatalities comes even though heavily impacted states, such as Maharashtra, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, have retrospectively raised their death tolls.

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100. EU drugs regulator lists rare neurological disorder as potential side effect of Janssen’s Covid jabЧт, 22 июл[−]

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has listed Guillain-Barr? syndrome (GBS) as a very rare side effect of the Janssen Covid vaccine after examining 108 cases and one death worldwide from among recipients of the jab.

GRBS is a rare neurological disorder caused by the body’s immune system damaging nerve cells, causing paralysis in the most severely affected cases. Most people afflicted by the illness fully recover from it.

The EMA said on Thursday that its safety committee, the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), established from the evidence provided and cases reported to date that there is a causal relationship between the Janssen Covid vaccine and GBS, although it is a very rare side effect.

Even though the EMA believes that GBS should be listed as a very rare side effect to the drug, the agency was clear that it still believes the benefits of the Covid jab outweigh the risks.

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(FILE PHOTO) © REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
EU drugs regulator urges people to follow through on 2nd Covid vaccine doses as Delta variant continues to surge in Europe

The EMA assessed the potential risk of the disorder after 108 cases and one death was reported among the 21 million people who have received the Janssen vaccine so far. Despite the low risk level, the EMA has stated that health officials should be aware of the potential threat, ensuring they are alert to its symptoms so that anyone affected can be diagnosed early on.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a similar warning that there is a slight risk of GBS, having assessed reports of around 100 preliminary cases of the disorder in the 12.8 million Americans who’ve had the Janssen Covid jab. Regardless, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes in its guidance on the jab that the vaccine has “high efficacy at preventing hospitalization and death in people who did get sick,” adding that during its clinical trials “no one who got COVID-19 at least four weeks after receiving the J&J/Janssen vaccine had to be hospitalized.”

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