Canada gets China nod to bring home citizens amid epidemic

first_imgCanada’s top diplomat has gotten a nod from his Chinese counterpart to bring home nearly 200 Canadians from Wuhan — the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic — his office said Friday.In a rare telephone call with Foreign Minister Wang Yi Thursday night, Canada’s Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne “asked for the collaboration of the Chinese government in helping those Canadian citizens who want to depart the region.”Wang “responded positively,” he said in a statement. Ottawa chartered a plane to bring back 196 Canadians who asked to be repatriated, but the airlift had remained in limbo this week even as the United States, Japan, South Korea and European nations brought home their nationals.With Wuhan locked down as part of a government effort to contain the epidemic, the Canadian flight required authorization to land in the region.Canada’s relations with its second biggest trading partner have been strained since the arrest on a US warrant of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 during a flight stopover in Vancouver.China has detained two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, in apparent retaliation. It also blocked Canadian agricultural shipments.The first phase of a court hearing of a US request for Meng’s extradition as held earlier this month, and is scheduled to resume in April.Kovrig and Spavor, meanwhile, remain in China’s opaque penal system.Champagne’s office said he also raised the plight of the detained Canadians with Wang, adding: “The two agreed to remain in touch on issues of mutual importance.”Topics :last_img read more

Ultra-rare snowfall carpets Baghdad

first_imgThe people of Baghdad are more used to heat than cold.The highest temperature recorded in the capital was a searing 51 degrees Celsius (124 degrees Fahrenheit), a record it has neared several times in recent years.South of the capital, snow also carpeted the Shiite holy city of Karbala, which draws pilgrims from round the world to its famed shrines, the golden-domed mausoleums of Abbas and Imam Hussein.Snowfall is more common in northern Iraq, where snow covered the war-battered city of Mosul, but in the center and south there is rarely enough precipitation.Iraq has been hit by a succession of extreme weather events in recent years.In 2018, chronic water shortages sparked a health crisis in the center and south but the following year, heavy rains caused deadly flooding and heavy damage to homes and crops.Blistering temperatures then hit the north triggering wild fires and scorching crops. Experts say Iraq lacks the funding or infrastructure to cope with climate change and the desertification of once productive land.  Residents of Baghdad rushed to have snowball fights or take photographs Tuesday as the Iraqi capital woke carpeted in white by only its second snowfall in a century.The last recorded snowfall in the city was in 2008, but it was a quick and mostly slushy affair — and prior to that, it had been a century since Baghdad saw any flakes. Iraqis young and old said it was the first time they had ever seen snow falling in Baghdad. The city’s iconic palm trees were daintily outlined in white, and the tarpaulins of the long-running anti-government protest camp in Tahrir Square in the city center were sprinkled with snow. People on their way to work stopped their cars to snap pictures or break out into impromptu snowball fights. “Snowfall may continue until Wednesday given the very cold weather,” said Amer al-Jaberi, media head of the Iraqi Meteorological Center. “This cold wave came from Europe,” he told AFP. center_img Topics :last_img read more

Saudi hosts G20 financial leaders amid coronavirus alarm

first_imgGeorgieva said the economic impact could see a “V-shaped” trajectory, with a sharp decline in China’s GDP followed by a sharp recovery.She warned the situation could have more dire consequences for other countries as the impacts spill over.The virus has now claimed 2,345 lives in China, cutting off transportation and forcing businesses to close their doors.China has said it will not be sending any leaders from Beijing for the Riyadh gathering but the Chinese ambassador in the kingdom will instead lead a small delegation.”We have been closely watching the developments of the virus and assessing its potential effects on economic growth,” a senior US Treasury official told reporters.”We expect ministers and governors will discuss the global economic outlook, particularly as it relates to the coronavirus outbreak.”The G20 organizers will also host a ministerial-level symposium on international taxation on Saturday, focused on the challenges arising from the digitalization of the global economy.The symposium will be attended by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin along with a host of other financial leaders.The Saudi presidency will see it host world leaders for a summit in Riyadh from  November 21 to 22.It will hold more than 100 events and conferences in the run-up to the summit, including ministerial meetings, organizers say.Human rights groups have urged G20 member states to exert pressure on the kingdom over its intensifying crackdown on dissent, which has seen women activists, journalists and political dissidents jailed. Finance ministers and central bank governors from G20 nations meet in the Saudi capital Saturday for a two-day gathering to discuss the global economy and the risks from the coronavirus epidemic.Aside from an action plan to shield the world economy from the impact of the outbreak, financial leaders from the world’s top 20 economies are also expected to discuss ways to achieve a fairer global taxation system for the digital era.”Finance ministers and central bank governors will discuss global economic outlook and possible policy responses to support growth and safeguard against downside risks,” G20 organizers said in a statement. “In addition, they will discuss the priorities of the Saudi G20 Presidency under the theme ‘realizing opportunities of the 21st century for all’… including the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy.”The meeting in Saudi Arabia, the first Arab nation to hold the G20 presidency, will be chaired by the kingdom’s finance minister Mohammed al-Jadaan and central bank governor Ahmed al-Kholifey.The meeting comes amid growing alarm over the new coronavirus as Chinese authorities lock down millions of people to prevent the spread of the disease, with major knock-on effects for the global economy.The impact of the epidemic may be short-lived but it comes as the global economy remains “fragile”, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva told a gathering in Riyadh on Friday.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Israeli exit polls show election victory within Netanyahu’s grasp

first_imgTopics : Victory in a cliffhanger Israeli election on Monday seemed to be within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s grasp, with exit polls showing him just one seat short of a governing right-wing bloc in parliament.Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, responded to the projections by tweeting “Thank you” and a heart emoji. He fought Israel’s third election in less than a year under the cloud of corruption charges, which he denies.The four-term prime minister, who heads the right-wing Likud party, had failed to secure a governing majority in the legislature in elections held in April and September. Opinion polls in the final days of campaigning had predicted further deadlock. But polls broadcast by Israel’s three main television channels after voting ended showed Likud pulling ahead of the centrist Blue and White party led by former general Benny Gantz.All three exit polls gave Likud and like-minded parties 60 of parliament’s 120-seats, just one short of a majority. During the campaign, right-wing and religious parties had pledged to join a Likud-led coalition government.Actual results, which have differed in the past from exit polls, will be released on Tuesday.last_img read more

Dutch royals discuss religious tolerance in Yogyakarta

first_imgDutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima joined an interfaith discussion on religious tolerance, among other issues, during their meeting with members of the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) in Yogyakarta, Central Java, on Wednesday.Throughout the discussion, which took place at Prambanan Temple Museum, the king and queen listened to stories about the real-life dynamics of various religious groups in Yogyakarta.Event committee member Dicky Sofjan said the discussion, which carried the theme “Religious Freedom and Harmony in Indonesia: Promise and Peril”, was vital to deepen mutual understanding among people of different beliefs across Indonesia. “This interfaith dialogue is really important because it brings together different religious communities based in Yogyakarta and the surrounding areas. In this dialogue, we openly and honestly discussed various problems and challenges confronting the communities with respect to religious freedom and harmony,” Dicky said.Read also: Prince Diponegoro’s kris returned ahead of Dutch royal visitThe Dutch monarchs were also given the opportunity to directly speak with representatives of several religious communities in Yogyakarta to learn more about the relationship between differing beliefs in the region.Uti Suprapti, a Hindu, voiced her concerns regarding the problems her community had faced in the region before the Dutch royalty. She said she hoped minority religious groups would no longer experience oppression in the near future. Among representatives of religious groups who joined the discussion were individuals affiliated with the Ahmadiyah religious sect — a minority Muslim group that has long been persecuted for its beliefs.“Your existence is very important here. Keep up the good work, keep it together. Thank you very much for this opportunity,” Willem told discussion participants at the end of the event.Read also: Religious harmony index up but intolerance remainsThe Dutch king and queen’s visit to Yogyakarta was part of the itinerary of their four-day state visit to Indonesia, which began on Tuesday when the monarchs were welcomed by President Joko “Jokowi” at Bogor Palace in West Java. The royal couple also visited the Yogyakarta palace on Wednesday and was welcomed by Sultan Hamengkubuwono X — who is also Yogyakarta governor — and his wife Hemas along with princesses Mangkubumi, Bendara, Candrakirana and Maduretno. (rfa)Topics :last_img read more

COVID-19: Hundreds of students remain in dorms as Unpad locks down

first_imgHe said there were 913 students who lived in 15 dorms within the Unpad grounds. As of Friday, 559 students had returned to their hometowns, including 11 foreign students.Dandi said the students who stayed inside the dorms were state-sponsored scholarship recipients.“We advised them to stay inside the dormitories. They are also able to report their health condition and other needs to their resident assistants, who are connected to the university’s COVID-19 task force,” Dandi said, adding that the university would accommodate the students throughout the lockdown period.The students living in the dorms would only attend online classes, just like other students.  As many as 364 students have stayed behind at Padjadjaran University (Unpad) dormitories in Sumedang, West Java, after the campus was shut down on Friday.“Based on the current conditions, students who are still inside the dormitories have to stay inside the premises,” university spokesperson Dandi said on Saturday. He said that if students felt unwell, a medical team from Padjadjaran Clinic would visit the dorms.To help supply the students with needs, Unpad’s COVID-19 task force has been collecting donations from the public. Those who wish to donate can send supplies such as food, as well as cash donations or internet data plans. “Some cellular providers are already willing to help. However, some of the students cannot use [the internet plans] since they use different providers. The donated funds will be used to purchase internet packages for them,” Dandi explained.The campus was put in an indefinite lockdown on Friday. Dandi said that residents of the dorms who returned to their respective homes should not return to the university for the time being.“This lockdown policy will be implemented indefinitely until we see any improvement in the situation,” he said. As of Sunday morning, Indonesia reported 450 confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide and 38 deaths. (dpk)Topics :last_img read more

Doctors resign from COVID-19 referral hospital in North Sumatra over incentives

first_imgAt least five specialist doctors working at Padang Sidempuan Hospital, a COVID-19 referral hospital in North Sumatra, have resigned from their positions in response to reportedly unpaid incentives.The hospital’s director, Tetty Rumondang, said the five doctors, namely Musbar, Romi, Novi Rahmi Asroel, Fauzi Fahmi and Yessy, submitted their resignations in late March as they had not received a total of Rp 300 million (US$19,028) collectively in incentives over three months. They said they were told they would receive Rp 20 million each in monthly incentives.”I asked the deputy director, Parlindungan Pasaribu, who is in charge of payment and he said that he hadn’t been instructed by the city’s mayor to pay out the incentives,” Tetty said, adding that she had reported the resignation to Padang Sidempuan Mayor Irsan Effendi Nasution. She was unhappy about the resignation as the hospital needed specialists to treat COVID-19 patients.  Read also: Millions to lose jobs, fall into poverty as Indonesia braces for recessionIrsan said separately that he had just heard about the resignation. “I haven’t received the report from the hospital.”North Sumatra Ombudsman head Abyadi Siregar said the doctors’ resignations showed the authorities’ lack of initiative in seriously handling the COVID-19 outbreak in the city.The city administration, Abyadi added, should have recruited more specialist doctors at the time of the health crisis instead of letting the existing ones leave their positions.”We urge the Padang Sidempuan administration to seriously handle the pandemic,” he said, adding that a Padang Sidempuan resident had died of the disease recently. (vny)Topics :last_img read more

Experts slam agriculture reform program, warn of shortage amid pandemic

first_imgThe government data presented by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on April 28 showed that over 20 provinces faced shortages of staple food, such as garlic, sugar, chili and eggs.Read also: Virus, climate change cause food shortages in parts of IndonesiaAgrarian Reform Consortium (KPA) secretary-general Dewi Kartika said the government’s botched agrarian reform program was to blame for the shortages as a vast plots of farmland were constantly being encroached by mining concessions and corporate plantations.“According to the National Land Agency’s data, our farmland shrank by 650,000 hectares in 2018. Many were converted to be used by other business sectors such as palm oil, natural resources extraction and infrastructure,” she said. Agrarian reform is among the National Priority Programs pushed by Jokowi’s first-term administration in an effort to better distribute development and improve the people’s life quality.It includes programs that are expected to alleviate poverty in villages, improve the country’s food security and land production, acknowledge ownership rights over plots of land owned by individuals, the state and the general public, including land utilization for the people’s interest.Dewi also slammed the government’s plan to clear 600,000 ha of peatland in Central Kalimantan to produce buffer stocks amid the shortage, as a similar measure under former president Soeharto on 1 million ha of peatland resulted in crop failure and subsequent starvation.Read also: Rice stock in check despite low production, high demandWe tried that approach during the Soeharto era, which ended with catastrophic failures. In addition, the program also created unprecedented ecological damages,” she said.According to a report released in April by the Global Network Against Food Crises, a humanitarian organization initiated by the World Food Program (WFP), a total of 135 million people lived with acute hunger at the end of 2019. The number was likely to jump to 265 million as countries enforcing quarantines amid the pandemic, the report said.As Indonesia relies on imports, market protectionism, especially during COVID-19 outbreak, could prompt other countries to halt their food exports. Such a policy could cause food shortages in countries that relied on the exports to fulfill their needs, said agriculture expert Sofyan Sjaf.“The [WFP] has warned that millions of people could face food shortages as agriculture production yields drop due to the pandemic,” he said during the same discussion. “We saw Vietnam take a precautionary step to prevent a potential shortage by clamping down on exports.”Read also: Lawmakers, farmers object to provision on food imports in omnibus bill on job creationSofyan also urged the government to curb the COVID-19 outbreak in rural areas to prevent a decrease in food production, as the majority of farmers are vulnerable to the disease.More than 22,000 people have contracted COVID-19, with the death toll reaching at least 1,300 as of Sunday afternoon.“Around 61 percent of our farmers are over 45 years old. We should increase our testing in rural regions and should not relax large-scale social restrictions [PSBB] when the infection rate is still high,” he said.Topics : Agriculture experts have criticized the government’s agrarian reform program a lack of progress that led to low production yield and mounting food imports, pointing to possible food shortages if the COVID-19 pandemic continues.University of Indonesia (UI) senior economist Faisal Basri has voiced his concerns over the increasing number of food imports over the years, saying that the government had been overly reliant on imports to cover the shortcomings of Indonesia’s agriculture industry.“Last year we imported US$830 million worth of meat, $1.5 billion worth of fruits and $770 million worth of vegetables. Most of our imports also came from China, on which we become overly reliant,” he said during a virtual public discussion on Friday.last_img read more

Regeneron begins human testing of COVID-19 antibody cocktail

first_imgTopics : The dual antibody, called REGN-COV2, is being compared to a placebo treatment in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, and in COVID-19 patients who have symptoms but are not sick enough to be hospitalized. Regeneron also plans to study REGN-COV2 for preventing the infection in people at high-risk of exposure – such as healthcare workers – and in uninfected people with close exposure to someone who has tested positive for the virus.Antibodies are proteins made by the body’s immune system that recognize, bind and neutralize an invading virus. Regeneron’s cocktail – which contains an antibody made by the company and a second isolated from humans who recovered from COVID-19 – is designed so that its two antibodies bind to the coronavirus’ spike protein, limiting the ability of viruses to escape.Trial patients will be given a single intravenous infusion of REGN-COV2. In the prevention segments of the study, participants will be given smaller subcutaneous doses, Yancopoulus said. Investigators will be measuring patients’ viral loads and keeping track of symptoms.Regeneron said its treatment could be useful even if a COVID-19 vaccine is developed since the elderly and people with compromised immune systems often do not respond well to vaccines.Yancopoulos said, even though Regeneron does not yet have proof that REGN-COV2 is effective, the company has cleared the way for production of the antibody compound at its New York manufacturing facility. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc on Thursday said it has begun human testing of its experimental antibody cocktail as a treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.The trial has an “adaptive” design and could quickly move from dozens of patients to eventually include thousands, Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos told Reuters.”If it goes perfectly well, within a week or two we will move to the second phase. Within a month or so of that we will have clear data that this is or isn’t working. By the end of summer, we could have sufficient data for broad utilization.”last_img read more

Hong Kong activists arrested under new security law

first_imgTopics : “Our sources and investigation show that the group recently announced on social media to set up an organization that advocates Hong Kong independence,” Li Kwai-wah, an officer from a new national security unit within the Hong Kong police told reporters. He added that computers, phones and documents were seized by officers and that all those arrested were students.Student Localism, a group that used to advocate independence, said in a statement that its former leader Tony Chung, 19, was among those arrested.Two other former members were identified by local politicians and media. Last month, Student Localism announced it had disbanded as Beijing enacted its national security law, which outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.It dismissed all its members and said only its overseas chapters would continue to operate.However, Li said overseas activity could still be prosecuted. “If anyone who tells others that he advocates violating the national security law from abroad, even he does that from overseas, we have the jurisdiction to investigate these kind of cases,” he told reporters. ‘Draconian law’ The security law has sent a chill through Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous city supposedly guaranteed 50 years of freedoms and autonomy from Beijing under a “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement agreed ahead of the 1997 handover from Britain.Last year the city was rocked by seven straight months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests. Beijing says the national security law is needed to end unrest, restore stability and will not impact political freedoms. Critics, including many western nations, say it has demolished the “One Country, Two Systems” model.”The gross misuse of this draconian law makes clear that the aim is to silence dissent, not protect national security,” Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, said after the latest arrests.The law bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and its details were kept secret until the moment it was enacted. Overnight certain political views became outlawed, such as advocating independence or greater autonomy.The first arrests after the law was enacted were made against people who possessed pro-independence flags.Wednesday night’s arrests were made by Hong Kong’s police force. However, the new law also empowers China’s security agents to operate openly in the city for the first time.China has also said it will have jurisdiction for especially serious cases and has also claimed it can prosecute anyone anywhere in the world for national security crimes.Those powers topple the legal firewall that has existed since the handover between Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and the Chinese mainland’s party-controlled courts. China routinely uses similar national security laws to crush dissent on the mainland.At least 15 people have now been arrested under the new law since it was enacted on June 30. Four Hong Kong students involved in a recently disbanded pro-independence group were arrested by police on Wednesday under a controversial new national security law, officers and members of the group said.The arrests are the first to target public political figures since the sweeping legislation was imposed on the city by Beijing late last month.Police said three men and one woman aged between 16 and 21 were arrested on suspicion of organizing and inciting secession. ‘Draconian law’ The security law has sent a chill through Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous city supposedly guaranteed 50 years of freedoms and autonomy from Beijing under a “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement agreed ahead of the 1997 handover from Britain.Last year the city was rocked by seven straight months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests. Beijing says the national security law is needed to end unrest, restore stability and will not impact political freedoms. Critics, including many western nations, say it has demolished the “One Country, Two Systems” model.”The gross misuse of this draconian law makes clear that the aim is to silence dissent, not protect national security,” Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, said after the latest arrests.The law bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and its details were kept secret until the moment it was enacted. Overnight certain political views became outlawed, such as advocating independence or greater autonomy.The first arrests after the law was enacted were made against people who possessed pro-independence flags.Wednesday night’s arrests were made by Hong Kong’s police force. However, the new law also empowers China’s security agents to operate openly in the city for the first time.China has also said it will have jurisdiction for especially serious cases and has also claimed it can prosecute anyone anywhere in the world for national security crimes.Those powers topple the legal firewall that has existed since the handover between Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and the Chinese mainland’s party-controlled courts. China routinely uses similar national security laws to crush dissent on the mainland.At least 15 people have now been arrested under the new law since it was enacted on June 30. Four Hong Kong students involved in a recently disbanded pro-independence group were arrested by police on Wednesday under a controversial new national security law, officers and members of the group said.The arrests are the first to target public political figures since the sweeping legislation was imposed on the city by Beijing late last month.Police said three men and one woman aged between 16 and 21 were arrested on suspicion of organizing and inciting secession.”Our sources and investigation show that the group recently announced on social media to set up an organization that advocates Hong Kong independence,” Li Kwai-wah, an officer from a new national security unit within the Hong Kong police told reporters. He added that computers, phones and documents were seized by officers and that all those arrested were students.Student Localism, a group that used to advocate independence, said in a statement that its former leader Tony Chung, 19, was among those arrested.Two other former members were identified by local politicians and media.Last month, Student Localism announced it had disbanded as Beijing enacted its national security law, which outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.It dismissed all its members and said only its overseas chapters would continue to operate.However, Li said overseas activity could still be prosecuted. “If anyone who tells others that he advocates violating the national security law from abroad, even he does that from overseas, we have the jurisdiction to investigate these kind of cases,” he told reporters.last_img read more