Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Sudan’s Government, SPLM-N Adjourn Peace Talks for Further Consultations

South Sudan's Presidential Adviser for Security Affairs and Chairman of the Mediation Team, Tut Kew Gatluak (Sovereign Council photo)

June 15, 2021 (KHARTOUM) - Peace talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N al-Hilu have been adjourned sine die for more consultations, said the South Sudanese mediation and the two parties on Tuesday.

Divergences over to what extent is the separation between the state and religion in Sudan prevented the two parties from signing a framework agreement more than three weeks after the start of direct meetings.

The adjournment of the talks was decided in agreement with the two negotiating parties, for more dialogue and internal consultations on the sticky points, said a statement, signed by the heads of the two negotiating delegations and the chief mediator.

Also, the mediation in cooperation with international partners will seek to bridge the gaps between the parties during the coming weeks, it further added.

"Few outstanding issues have led to delay the talks but the next round will lead to a comprehensive peace agreement," Tut Gatluak told reporters after the release of the joint statement announcing the suspension.

He added that the two delegations that only 4 of the 19 points of contention remain unresolved, adding they are "simple and can be overcome."

The head of the government negotiating team Shams al-Din Kabbashi hailed the positive spirit that prevailed in the talks adding it helped achieve progress over the outstanding issues.

"The government delegation will return to the next round with the same will and desire for peace to resume talks over the sticky issues with the SPLM-N," he added.

Also, the SPLM-N Secretary-General Ammar Amoun who is the head of its negotiating delegation said that the will and determination of the two parties enabled them to reach make progress in the talks.

He added that the two parties agreed on 75 to 80% of the draft framework agreement, adding that only 20% of the sticky issues need further consultations.

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African Union Spoke About Involving P5 Countries in GERD Talks: Sudan

June 14, 2021 (KHARTOUM) - The African Union delegation discussed with the Sudanese officials the involvement of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in the negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Yasir AbbasYasser Abbas, the Sudanese Minister of Irrigation, held a press conference in Khartoum on Monday, to brief the media about the developments in the negotiations on the GERD filling and operating, two months after the Kinshasa meeting, which dealt only with how to resume the pending negotiations since January.

Abbas stressed his government’s adherence to establishing a mediation led by the African Union to broker the negotiations on the giant dam including "influential countries and international organizations".

He further said that the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki and his accompanying delegation, which concluded a two-day visit to Khartoum on 14 June, did not make any proposals during its recent visit to Khartoum.

"There is nothing new in the African Union’s position and even yesterday we confirmed to the visiting African Union’s delegation Sudanese demand to strengthen the African Union (through the inclusion of the EU, UK and U.S."

"We heard them talking about the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5). The African Union and the Five Permanents but they did not put forward any official proposal," he said.

The African Union issued a statement about Faki’s visit to Khartoum but did not refer to their discussion with the Sudanese Minister of Irrigation on the Renaissance Dam.

The Sudanese minister added that there was no formal Emirati initiative, but rather a draft framework agreement. "There was no clear initiative or solutions," he said.

Also, he said the U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman did not put forward any initiative, during his visit to Sudan last May.

In response to a question from a journalist about the support of some Arab countries to Ethiopia, and if such support prompted Addis Ababa to refuse to sign a binding agreement on the GERD, the minister said "Maybe."

The UAE had announced its plans to invest in agricultural schemes in Ethiopia using the waters of the Renaissance Dam. The move angered Egypt considering it will harm its interests.

The Arab League foreign ministers will meet on Tuesday in Doha to take a unified position in support of Sudan and Egypt in the negotiations over the GERD with Ethiopia.

Abbas said that Sudan requested to hold this meeting adding it was one of the measures that Khartoum and Cairo agreed to coordinate during a meeting with the Egyptian Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Irrigation in Khartoum on June 9.

He further disclosed that the two countries had agreed to address the Security Council.

"Egypt had already filled its letter to the Council, and that the Sudanese government is in the process of taking the same step," he stressed.

The minister stressed that the role of the international community is needed because their experience with the African Union from June 2020 up to now has shown that the regional body cannot resolve alone the ongoing dispute with Ethiopia.

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South Sudan to Mortgage Crude Oil for Loan Repayments

June 13, 2021 (JUBA) - South Sudan says it is committed to repay the loan it received from the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) last year.

This was revealed during a meeting between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and a delegation from Afreximbank led by its President Prof. Benedict Oramah in Juba on Friday.

The office of the President, in a statement said, Kiir and Oramah discussed how to deepen the existing relations between South Sudan and the pan-African multilateral financial institution.

“The discussion focused on the repayment of loans received by South Sudan from Afreximbank, and ways to consistently deliver crude cargoes designated for loan repayment, and South Sudan’s current and future financial needs,” further noted the statement.

Kiir expressed his gratitude to the Afreximbank delegation, assuring them of the East African nation’s commitment to the continued long-term bilateral cooperation with the financial institution.

In August last year, South Sudan said it is seeking a $250 million loan from the African Export-Import Bank to implement a long-delayed peace deal, fight COVID-19 and support food security.

Established in 1993 by African governments, African private and institutional investors, and non-African investors, Afrieximbank is devoted to financing and promoting intra- and extra-African trade.

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National Liberation Party Wins Most Seats in Voting for ‘New Algeria’

Election officials count ballots after the closing of stations in the country's first legislative elections since the ouster of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria, Saturday, June 12, 2021. Algerians voted Saturday for a new parliament in an election with a majority of novice independent candidates running under new rules meant to satisfy demands of pro-democracy protesters and open the way to a "new Algeria." (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria’s oldest party, previously thought to be on the wane, won the largest number of seats in weekend legislative elections, the country’s electoral authority announced Tuesday.

The National Liberation Front, or FLN, secured 105 of 407 parliamentary seats, according to the provisional results. Independent candidates, including young people new to politics and many others who broke away from the FLN, placed second, winning a total 78 seats.

The voting Saturday was meant to open the way to a “new Algeria” heralded by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to end an era of corruption and give the North African nation a new, younger face after a two-decade reign of Abdelaziz Bouteflika as chief of state. Bouteflika was forced to resign in 2019 under pressure from the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement.

However, turnout was dismal with Hirak protesters boycotting the elections, as did traditional opposition parties. The electoral chief, Mohamed Charfi, did not provide a turnout figure in his Tuesday rundown of results, but media outlets calculating the number of voters among the 24 million eligible put the figure at 23% — a historic low.

The moderate Islamist party that has been a mainstay in Algerian politics, the Movement for a Peaceful Society, won 64 seats, double the number it held previously. Another Islamist party will also be increasing its presence in the lower chamber of parliament, going from 12 seats to 40, Mohamed Charfi, head of the electoral authority, told a news conference.

A party which once shared the majority with the FLN, the National Democratic Rally, placed fourth with 55 seats, down from 100 in the outgoing parliament.

The FLN was decried by Hirak protesters seeking to upend a system in place since Algerian independence from France in 1962. The party was born as a fighting force in the independence battle then transformed into the nation’s sole political party for nearly three decades, until multiparty elections were allowed in 1989.

It lost 60 seats in the elections, but even without a majority the FLN saved itself as the premier party of Algeria. The results suggested that nationalists, from the FLN to party dissidents elected as independents and gains by another party regarded as an FLN satellite could dominate in the chamber.

Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 15 at Somalia Military Site

By HASSAN BARISE

Somalis help a civilian who was wounded in suicide bomb attack at a military base in Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday, June 15, 2021 Police in Somalia say at least 15 people were killed and more than 20 others wounded when a suicide bomber attacked a military training center in the capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Police in Somalia say at least 15 people were killed and more than 20 others wounded when a suicide bomber attacked a military training center in the capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday.

Police spokesman Sadiq Ali Aden told reporters that the bomber, wearing an explosives-packed vest, impersonated a trainee to enter the camp in the city’s Medina district.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility.

The training center is used by the Somali National Army for new recruits.

All of the dead and wounded were rushed to the Medina hospital, where health officials said at least 14 were seriously wounded. Hundreds of people gathered at the hospital to check whether loved ones were among the victims.

Fighting COVID-19 Surge, South Africa Increases Restrictions

By MOGOMOTSI MAGOME

FILE — In this Monday, March 29, 2021 file photo South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, right, heads a government delegation on a visit to ASPEN Pharmaceuticals in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The country's COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been hit by further delays as it will have to discard at least 2 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines produced in the country.. (AP Photo,file)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Confronted with a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, South Africa has returned to tighter restrictions on public gatherings and liquor sales, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Tuesday night.

The new infections threaten the health systems in several parts of the country, said Ramaphosa in a nationally televised address.

Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 have increased by 59% over the past two weeks, according to Ramaphosa. South Africa’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has nearly doubled over the past two weeks from 6.69 new cases per 100,000 people on May 31 to 12.71 new cases per 100,000 people on June 14, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“Our priority now is to make sure there are enough hospital beds, enough health workers, enough ventilators, and enough oxygen to give the best possible care to every person who needs it,” said Ramaphosa.

“The massive surge in new infections means that we must once again tighten restrictions on the movement of persons and gatherings,” he said.

The nightly curfew has been extended by an hour from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. while religious gatherings indoors are now limited to 50 people. The number of people allowed to gather for social events has been limited to 50 people for indoor events and 100 people for outdoor events.

The retail sale of alcohol will only be permitted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Monday through Thursday.

South Africa has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the entire continent, with a cumulative total of more than 1.7 million infections, including 57,000 deaths, accounting for nearly 40% of Africa’s total confirmed cases.

The new restrictions come as South Africa also battles to sustain a vaccination drive that has faced delays from global vaccines shortages and this week the news that it must discard 2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to factory contamination in the United States.

Johnson & Johnson had promised to deliver 2 million of its single-shot doses by the end of June, but that is now viewed as in jeopardy because of the recent ruling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that a large amount of J&J vaccines were contaminated by a problem at a factory producing a component of the vaccine. About 480,000 of South Africa’s health care workers have been vaccinated with J&J doses.

Doses of the Pfizer vaccine are being used to inoculate people aged 60 and over. About 1.4 million people have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. According to Ramaphosa, South Africa is expecting to receive 3.1 million Pfizer doses by the end of June.

Martha White Dies, Sparked ’53 Louisiana Capital Bus Boycott

June 11, 2021

Martha White is seen in this 2005 photo at a Women of Courage luncheon in Baton Rouge, La. White, a Black woman known for helping to launch the 1953 bus boycotts in Louisiana's capital city, has died. She was 99. Family and officials confirmed White died Saturday. (Carol Anne Blitzer/The Advocate via AP)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Martha White, a Black woman whose actions helped launch the 1953 bus boycotts in Louisiana’s capital city, has died. She was 99.

White died Saturday, her family and others confirmed.

White, then 31, was working as a housekeeper in the capital city of Baton Rouge in 1953 when she took action. After a long day of walking to and from work while seeking to reach her bus stop, she decided to sit in one of the only bus seats available — one designated for white passengers.

When the driver ordered her to get up, White refused and another Black woman sat beside her in solidarity. The bus driver threatened to have the women arrested. Ultimately police, the bus company manager and a civil rights activist, the Rev. T.J. Jemison, showed up. Jemison informed the driver of a recently passed ordinance to desegregate buses in the city, meaning White wasn’t violating any rules.

In response to the ordinance, bus drivers began a strike and the ordinance was later overturned. That prompted a boycott by the Black community in Baton Rouge.

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome issued a statement Monday recognizing White’s contribution to the city’s civil rights movement.

“Martha White undoubtedly shaped our community in Baton Rouge, and communities across our nation,” Broome said. “We honor her legacy today and every day.”

That boycott later helped provide the framework for the famous effort sparked by Rosa Parks that led to a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955.

Ted Jemison, the son of the Rev. T.J. Jemison, remembered White as being outspoken and unafraid to share her opinion. He told The Advocate of a conversation he had with her years ago about that day. He recalled her telling him she just wanted to sit in that bus seat because she was tired from being on her feet constantly that day.

”‘Can you imagine working on your feet all day and just wanting to sit down?’” Jemison recalled White as saying. “She was the same way from when she was young to when she was 90 years old. She knew that what she did was for the good of everyone in Baton Rouge.”

“We really lost a true pioneer for civil rights,” said Jason Roberts, co-owner of the Baton Rouge African American Museum, speaking of White’s death, the newspaper reported.

$4.5 Million Accepted by Family of Man Killed by Police

June 11, 2021

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The children of a Black man killed by police in Louisiana’s capital city five years ago have accepted a $4.5 million settlement from the local government, the man’s family and the city’s mayor said Friday.

Alton Sterling’s 2016 shooting by a Baton Rouge police officer was captured on video and sparked anger and protests in the city’s Black community.

Sterling’s family issued a statement Friday confirming acceptance of the settlement after news outlets reported that court documents showed they had moved to have the suit dismissed last month. The settlement had been approved earlier in the year by the Metro Council for Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish.

“This settlement, which was reached through hard work and collaboration between attorneys for Mr. Sterling’s family and the Baton Rouge City Council, will allow the city to heal and provide a pathway for Mr. Sterling’s children to be provided for financially,” said the statement issued through the family’s attorneys. It also expressed hope that reforms implemented by the department will prevent future deaths.

“As a community, we must work together to implement changes in policy and in our community to ensure that no other families in Baton Rouge will endure this loss, trauma, or heartbreak,” Mayor Sharon Broome said in her statement.

The officer who shot Sterling during a struggle outside a convenience store lost his job and another officer was suspended. Neither was charged criminally after state and federal investigations.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Sterling’s five children in 2017 by their mothers. It sought damages for violation of Sterling’s civil rights and claimed the local government was negligent in its hiring, training and supervision of Blane Salamoni, the officer who fired the six shots that killed Sterling.

The agreement will pay $1 million upfront to Sterling’s children from East Baton Rouge Parish’s insurance reserve funds, WBRZ-TV reported, with the remaining money being paid in equal installments over the next four years.

The initial funds will be allocated from the city-parish’s Insurance Reserve Fund, with the remaining payments pulled from the annual operating budget.

Sterling was fatally shot by Baton Rouge police responding to a complaint of a man with a gun outside a convenience store on North Foster Drive in 2016. Widespread protests followed after cellphone video of the encounter was spread online.

Law Enforcement Struggles to Recruit Since Killing of Floyd

By STEFANIE DAZIO, JAKE BLEIBERG and KATE BRUMBACK

June 11, 2021

Law enforcement agencies across the country experienced a wave of retirements and departures and are struggling to recruit the next generation of police officers in the year since George Floyd was killed by a cop.

And amid the national reckoning on policing, communities are questioning who should become a police officer today.

Mass protests and calls for reforming or defunding the police, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, took their toll on officer morale. The rate of retirements at some departments rose 45% compared with the previous year, according to new research on nearly 200 law enforcement agencies conducted by the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum and provided to The Associated Press. At the same time, hiring slowed by 5%, the group found.

The wave comes as local lawmakers have pledged to enact reforms — such as ending the policies that give officers immunity for their actions while on-duty — and say they’re committed to reshaping policing in the 21st century. And recruiters are increasingly looking for a different kind of recruit to join embattled departments.

Years ago, a candidate’s qualifications might be centered around his — yes, his — brawn. Now, police departments say they are seeking recruits who can use their brain. And they want those future officers to represent their communities.

“Days of old, you wanted someone who actually had the strength to be more physical,” Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said. “Today’s police officers, that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for someone who can actually relate to the community but also think like the community thinks.”

But the climate today, coupled with increases in crime in some cities, is creating what Chuck Wexler, the head of the Police Executive Research Forum, called a “combustible mixture.”

It’s creating “a crisis on the horizon for police chiefs when they look at the resources they need, especially during a period when we’re seeing an increase in murders and shootings,” Wexler said. “It’s a wake-up call.”

The data from Wexler’s organization represents a fraction of the more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide and is not representative of all departments. But it’s one of the few efforts to examine police hiring and retention and compare it with the time before Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Former officer Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed behind his back, was convicted of murder and is awaiting sentencing.

Researchers heard from 194 police departments last month about their hires, resignations and retirements between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, and the same categories from April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020.

By comparison, the changing public attitude on policing is well documented. In the past year, as many as half of American adults believed police violence against the public is a “very” or “extremely” serious problem, according to one poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

“It’s hard to recruit the very people who see police as an opposition,” said Lynda R. Williams, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, who previously worked on recruitment efforts for the Secret Service.

Bryant knows firsthand. In the weeks after Floyd’s death, a white officer, Garrett Rolfe, shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, a Black man, in the parking lot of a Wendy’s.

In quick succession, Rolfe was fired, the chief resigned and the local district attorney announced charges, including felony murder, against Rolfe — a rare step in police shootings. Some cops left the force, which currently has about 1,560 officers — about 63% of the force is Black, 29% white and 5% Latino.

Then came the “Blue Flu” — when a high number of police officers called out sick in protest. Bryant, then the department’s interim chief, acknowledged that it had occurred in Atlanta after Rolfe was charged.

“Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are confused on what we do in this space. Some may feel a bit abandoned,” Bryant said last summer in an interview at the height of the crisis.

But it hasn’t shaken the resolve of some, like Kaley Garced, a hairdresser-turned-police officer in Baltimore who graduated from the academy last August. Despite the protests and attitudes toward law enforcement, she stayed with her career choice with a plan to interact with residents.

“Earning their trust” leads to better policing, she said. Citizens who trust officers will not be afraid to “call upon you on their worst day” and ask for help.

Williams said she believes the next generation of law enforcement will bring a new outlook and move the profession forward by making departments more diverse and inclusive.

“They are the change that they want to see,” Williams said.

Recruitment is still a challenge. In some cities like Philadelphia, departments are spending more time scouring a candidate’s social media to hunt for possible biases. In others, pay disparities — a longtime problem — still exist, making it difficult to attract would-be officers and keep newly trained recruits when a neighboring jurisdiction offers more money and benefits.

In Dallas, city leaders spent much of the last decade struggling to draw candidates and stem the outflow of officers frustrated by low pay and the near collapse of their pension fund.

Despite those efforts, the force now stands at about 3,100 officers — down from more than 3,300 in 2015 — a loss at a time when the city’s population has grown to more than 1.3 million. The force is about 44% white, 26% Black and 26% Latino. This means officers handle more calls and detectives more cases, all amid increased racial tension.

In 2016, five officers were killed in Dallas by a sniper who was seeking revenge for police shootings elsewhere that killed or wounded Black men. Two years later, an off-duty officer fatally shot her neighbor in his home. She was fired and later was sentenced to a decade in prison for murder.

Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said the national political climate and local pay and pension issues have been compounding challenges to hiring in Dallas.

In 2019, however, a consulting firm Dallas hired to review its department found that it needed not simply more officers but also a “realignment of strategy, goals, mission, and tactics.” That finding rings true to Changa Higgins, a longtime community organizer.

“You don’t need to focus on hiring more officers,” Higgins said. “You need to focus on how you got these guys allocated.”

In Los Angeles, the department is fighting against a decade-long image of scandal and racial strife from the Watts riots in 1965 to the bloodshed in 1992 after a Simi Valley jury’s acquittal of officers who brutally beat motorist Rodney King.

Capt. Aaron McCraney, head of the Recruitment and Employment Division, and Chief Michel Moore ticked off the issues facing the 48 new recruits — more than half of whom were women — last year, noting that the pandemic, civil unrest and economic uncertainty were just some of the challenges the new officers would face.

“Even though these are tough times, these are difficult times, these are interesting times,” McCraney said, “these times will pass, and we’ll get on to things better.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

AMA Doctors Meet amid Vocal Backlash over Racial Equity Plan

By LINDSEY TANNER

June 12, 2021

This November 2018 photo provided by the American Medical Association shows Gerald Harmon at the Interim Meeting of the AMA in National Harbor, Md. The nation’s largest, most influential doctors’ group is holding its annual policymaking meeting starting Friday, June 11, 2021, amid backlash over its most ambitious plan ever — to help dismantle centuries-old racism and bias in all realms of the medical establishment. Harmon, the group's incoming president, knows he isn’t the most obvious choice to lead the AMA at this pivotal time. But he seems intent on breaking down stereotypes and said pointedly in a phone interview, “This plan is not up for debate.’’ (Ted Grudzinski/American Medical Association via AP)

The nation’s largest, most influential doctors’ group is holding its annual policymaking meeting amid backlash over its most ambitious plan ever — to help dismantle centuries-old racism and bias in all realms of the medical establishment.

The dissenters are a vocal minority of physicians, including some white Southern delegates who accuse the American Medical Association of reverse discrimination.

Dr. Gerald Harmon, the group’s incoming president, is a 69-year-old white native of rural South Carolina who knows he isn’t the most obvious choice to lead the AMA at this pivotal time. But he seems intent on breaking down stereotypes and said pointedly in a phone interview, “This plan is not up for debate.”

The six-day meeting that began Friday is being held virtually because of the pandemic. It offers a chance for doctors to adopt policies that spell out how the AMA should implement its health equity plan. But some white doctors say the plan goes too far.

Announced last month, the plan is unusually bold for the historically cautious AMA, acknowledging that racism and white privilege exist in the medical establishment and have contributed to health disparities laid bare during the coronavirus pandemic.

Portions of the plan include the language of critical race theory, referencing the theft of native lands and centuries-old white supremacy. The dissenters took offense and attacked the plan in documents recently leaked online. One leaked draft of a letter intended for AMA executives called portions of the plan “divisive, accusatory and insulting.”

“White males are repeatedly characterized as repressive and to some degree responsible for the inequities. This ... implies reverse discrimination,” the letter said. It was signed by Dr. Claudette Dalton, a member of the AMA’s Southeastern delegation, four other physicians and five state delegations representing 68 AMA delegates.

Dalton said in an email that the draft letter was not sent, but she declined several requests for comment.

Critics argue that the plan should be put up for a vote by delegates, but it reflects existing policies. It was developed by AMA executives and staff based in part on measures adopted at previous policymaking meetings. That includes a declaration last November that racism is a public health threat.

Harmon’s effort to knock down stereotypes includes reflecting on his own experiences. He described a recent encounter at a South Carolina hospital with an older Black man stricken with COVID-19 pneumonia. The man was getting better but was not very communicative and offered mostly one-word responses to questions.

The man’s name was familiar, so Harmon sat down at the bedside and probed. ‘“What kind of work did you do?’ ‘Mechanic.’ ‘What kind?’ ‘Jet engines.’”

With an Air Force background, Harmon shared that he knew about jet engines, and the patient perked up. He had worked at a NASA research center in Virginia where Harmon had once been assigned.

“He was literally a rocket scientist,” Harmon said.

Harmon acknowledged the racial stereotype behind his initial impression. He said that’s the kind of thinking that the AMA wants to confront. But he also noted that he took time to learn more about the patient and to find common ground — something Black patients say white doctors often don’t do.

U.S. physicians, including AMA members, are overwhelmingly white. With roughly 270,000 members, the AMA represents just over a quarter of the nation’s doctors.

One measure at this week’s meeting would have the group create guidelines to help hospitals, academic medical centers and doctors’ offices create and prominently display anti-racist policies that clearly define racist behavior and “microaggressions.” Those are sometimes subtle behaviors and actions that can be as damaging as overt racism and bias, including assuming Black patients aren’t educated or that women doctors are cleaning staff.

Amid strong evidence that patients fare best when treated by physicians who look like them, another measure asks the AMA to bolster efforts to create a more diverse physician workforce. That would include advocating for programs to encourage interest in medical careers among high school and college students of different races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientation.

Other proposals on the meeting agenda ask the AMA to promote policies that don’t penalize medical students and doctors for wearing natural hairstyles or cultural headwear, and policies against criminalizing transgender treatments.

Voting is scheduled for Monday through Wednesday. Harmon begins his one-year term as president on Tuesday.

The plan comes at a time of racial reckoning and as Black physicians increasingly speak out against racism.

Dr. Stella Safo, an HIV specialist in New York City, said she never thought the AMA represented people like her — a Black woman whose parents hail from Ghana — until the health equity plan emerged. She organized a letter-writing campaign among doctors to urge AMA leadership to resist pressure against the plan.

“What they do matters for everyone,” Safo said. “We’re all watching. I hope they don’t back down.”

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Follow Lindsey Tanner on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LindseyTanner.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Teachers Wary of New Laws Limiting Instruction on Race

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI and MICHAEL MELIA

June 12, 2021

FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, students keep social distance as they walk to their classroom in Highwood, Ill., part of the North Shore school district. In response to a push for culturally responsive teaching that gained steam following last year's police killing of George Floyd, Republican lawmakers and governors have championed legislation to limit the teaching of material that explores how race and racism influence American politics, culture and law. The measures have become law in Tennessee, Idaho and Oklahoma and bills have been introduced in over a dozen other states. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — As middle school teacher Brittany Paschall assembled a lesson plan on the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues, she wondered how she might have to go about it differently next year under a new Tennessee state law that prohibits teaching certain concepts of race and racism.

The unit was about baseball, but more importantly, it was about segregation and racism in America.

“I kept thinking, in light of this bill, if this were next year, how would I teach this to my students?” said Paschall, an English teacher in Nashville. “Do we teach students to ignore tough subjects?”

Laws setting guiderails for classroom instruction on race passed this year in Republican-controlled states have left some teachers worried about how they will be enforced. Particularly in districts with large numbers of people of color, educators say they worry everyday discussions about students’ experiences could land teachers in hot water.

In response to a push for culturally responsive teaching that gained steam following last year’s police killing of George Floyd, Republican lawmakers and governors have championed legislation to limit the teaching of material that explores how race and racism influence American politics, culture and law. The measures have become law in Tennessee, Idaho and Oklahoma and bills have been introduced in over a dozen other states.

Professional teachers associations and some school boards have blasted the laws as disrespecting teachers’ judgment and opening the door to censorship.

“This is an assault on the craft of teaching,” said Paschall, who is Black. “It’s asking me to show up and ignore parts of my own identity.”

The Tennessee law that takes effect July 1 allows the state education commissioner to withhold funds from any school found to be in violation. Among other things, Tennessee’s teachers can’t instruct that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.”

The law still permits ‘impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history,’ but teachers are uncertain how to square that with the main thrust of the legislation, as state officials begin working on finalizing rules on how to implement the new law.

Opposition among teachers is not universal. In a survey by the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies, 64 of 403 members responded with their thoughts on the legislation. While 61% said it would greatly or slightly affect their teaching, 22% said it would likely not or definitely not affect their teaching.

Among the written responses shared anonymously by the council, one of the teachers who said it would not affect their teaching wrote: “Telling students of color they are discriminated against will only serve to make the students feel victimized. This has no place in schools.”

The bills in various states limit the teaching of ideas linked to “critical race theory,” which seeks to reframe the narrative of American history. Its proponents argue that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labor.

In the Oklahoma City school district of Millwood, where over 70% of students are Black, Superintendent Cecilia Robinson-Woods said teachers were confused by the implications of the new law’s ban on saying certain people are inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

She said one young Black teacher assigned a project around an issue students want to solve in their community and they came back with topics including gentrification, Jim Crow, mass incarceration and the Tulsa race massacre.

“This is what these kids are thinking about. To say you can’t talk about this, it’s impossible,” Robinson-Woods said.

After the new law passed, the teacher asked the superintendent if the project meant he was teaching critical race theory. She told him students in the district’s K-12 schools aren’t being taught such concepts.

“What you should be doing is having student led-discussions that are balanced,” Robinson-Woods said she told the teacher. “So if kids are interested in learning about Green Book, then yeah, they need to learn about Jim Crow as well.”

“We’re not doing anything differently because we don’t believe we’re teaching critical race theory,” she added.

The new law was condemned by school boards in Millwood as well as Oklahoma City, where the board chair, Paula Lewis, said it was a measure in search of a problem because there have been no examples of somebody telling a student they are a white supremacist or an oppressor because of their skin color.

Still, she said, teachers are apprehensive about crossing a line.

“In our mind, it really just adds a layer of fear,” she said.

Tennessee teachers also are eager to see how the new law is interpreted by state officials.

Bianca Martinez, a sixth-grade English teacher in Memphis, points to the difficult conversations her students brought up last year when the class read “Brown Girl Dreaming,” a young adult novel on growing up Black in the 1960s in South Carolina and New York.

“In my lesson plans, I didn’t have language that said ‘critical race theory,’ ‘systematic racism,’ or ‘privilege’,” she said. “But those conversations came up and they’re going to continue to happen.”

“My question is, how are you going to police that?” Martinez said. “And what does violating the measure mean?”

___

Melia reported from Hartford, Conn.

Videos of Violent Arrests Sparked by Vaping Stir Criticism

June 14, 2021

OCEAN CIY, Md. (AP) — Videos showing Ocean City police officers kneeing one Black teen and Tasing another on the Boardwalk of that beach community in separate confrontations that began over vaping are stirring criticism of the department’s use of force in such cases.

On June 6, police tried to stop a teen because he was vaping, police said in a statement. When he pulled away from an officer grabbing him in a “bear hug” and began threatening to kill them, an officer used a Tasers, according to charging documents.

Video of the encounter shows the teen with his hands up, but as one hand drops toward his backpack, an officer fires a Taser and he falls to the ground. Other videos show the teen being carried away by officers with his hands and feet tied. Court documents state that the 18-year-old from Perryville teen is Black.

A video of another Boardwalk confrontation on Saturday shows another Black teen being held by several officers while an officer knees him repeatedly as a dozen officers and public safety aides hold back an angry crowd. One teen is taken into custody after lifting one of several police bicycles encircling the officers and another is Tased as he struggles with officers.

That confrontation began after officers approached a large group of people vaping to tell them it was prohibited, then returning when they saw a member of the group begin to vape again, police said in a news release. The teen refused to provide identification and police said he became disorderly and resisted as officers tried to arrest him.

Online court records show the four 18- and 19-year-olds from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are Black. No attorneys are listed for them in court records.

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill retweeted the video of the June 6 incident and called on Attorney General Brian Frosh to investigate. Frosh responded that he was “deeply concerned” about the incident based on that video and another he had seen and that he had shared his concern with law enforcement agencies.

In a tweet apparently referring to the June 6 incident, House Speaker Adrienne Jones called the video “deeply disturbing’ and called on Ocean City officials to make reviewing the incident a priority, dismiss the charges and retrain officers on use of force.

“Vaping on the Boardwalk is not a criminal offense,” she said. ”Black and brown children should not be tased while their hands are up. Officers should not kneel on the back of a minor. Vaping should not yield a hog tie.”

Police said in the news release that “officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance.” In a statement Monday, Ocean City police said they understand the public’s concern over the video of the incident on Saturday and it is under review.

“While the use of force is never the intended outcome, our police department’s first priority is to protect and serve,” police said. “They do not target based on race or age. They are focused only on keeping our residents and visitors safe by enforcing the law, and diffusing situations as quickly as possible while maintaining control over the environment.” 

Senate Approves Bill to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

By KEVIN FREKING

This updated handout photo provided by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 shows a signed copy of Emancipation Proclamation. The Library, in Springfield, Ill., will mark Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, by displaying the rare signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. The copy of the proclamation that's signed by Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward will be displayed between June 15 and July 6. The original document is kept in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum photo via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would make Juneteenth, or June 19th, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

The bill would lead to Juneteenth becoming the 12th federal holiday. It is expected to easily pass the House, which would send it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Juneteenth commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free. Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865, but word didn’t reach the last enslaved Black people until June 19, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to Galveston, Texas. That was also about two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the Southern states.

“Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognize the wrongs of the past,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “But we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution.”

The Senate passed the bill under a unanimous consent agreement that expedites the process for considering legislation. It takes just one senator’s objection to block such agreements.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., had objected in the previous Congress to a bill to celebrate Juneteenth as a federal holiday because of the cost and lack of debate, he said. Johnson noted that he has supported resolutions recognizing the significance of Juneteenth, but he was concerned the new holiday would give federal employees another day off at a cost of about $600 million per year.

“While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter. Therefore, I do not intend to object,” Johnson said in a statement before Tuesday’s vote.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and had 60 co-sponsors. He tweeted Monday: “We have a long road towards racial justice in the United States and we cannot get there without acknowledging our nation’s original sin of slavery. It is long past time to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.”

The vast majority of states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day, and most states hold celebrations. Juneteenth is a paid holiday for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington.

Under the legislation, the federal holiday would be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.

Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 15 at Somalia Military Site

By HASSAN BARISE

Somalis help a civilian who was wounded in suicide bomb attack at a military base in Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday, June 15, 2021 Police in Somalia say at least 15 people were killed and more than 20 others wounded when a suicide bomber attacked a military training center in the capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Police in Somalia say at least 15 people were killed and more than 20 others wounded when a suicide bomber attacked a military training center in the capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday.

Police spokesman Sadiq Ali Aden told reporters that the bomber, wearing an explosives-packed vest, impersonated a trainee to enter the camp in the city’s Medina district.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility.

The training center is used by the Somali National Army for new recruits.

All of the dead and wounded were rushed to the Medina hospital, where health officials said at least 14 were seriously wounded. Hundreds of people gathered at the hospital to check whether loved ones were among the victims.

Cote d'Ivoire: Laurent Gbagbo's Return to His Homeland - an Important Step Towards Reconciliation

Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo.

11 JUNE 2021

Fides News Agency (Vatican)

PRESS RELEASE

Abidjan — The return home of the former president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, is scheduled for next June 17th. On March 31st he was acquitted of the charge of crimes against humanity issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague where he had been detained since 2011. His return foresees repercussions on the political life of the Country where, despite a decade of absence, he has remained one of the main protagonists for more than 30 years.

"It is certainly good news for the Country even if, of course, it does not guarantee automatic reconciliation", said the Ivorian theologian, Fr. Donald Zagore of the Society for African Missions. "The population hopes that his return will help to calm spirits and above all to create a favorable climate which leads to a frank political dialogue. The return of Gbagbo - underlines the priest - is far from being the final act of reconciliation, but it is an important step towards reconciliation. It was time for the Ivorians to overcome their rivalries and animosities to support the supreme interest of the nation".

The trial at the ICC was connected to Gbagbo's role in the post-election violence and subsequent civil war that left 3,000 people dead after the former president refused to concede to Ouattara in the 2010 presidential election.

"Nobody can claim to build a country alone - explains Zagore. It is in the sacred union of the sons and daughters of the country, despite political and even religious differences, that a solid and strong nation is built. My wish is that all the sons and daughters of Ivory Coast, now in political exile, return to their country, as well as the former president, to take their rightful place and play their full role in this reconciliation process". The missionary concludes by saying that the challenge today is to get out of the logic of victories and defeats. "In a war there are never winners or losers, the sad reality is that there are dead, lives destroyed forever. It is necessary that international justice continues to shed light on this crisis, but it is equally necessary to work to instill in the Ivorian political class a love for the values of justice, truth and tolerance. Until politics has justice, truth and tolerance as pillars, violence and war will continue to dictate the law".

Main opponent of Félix Houphouët-Boigny and then of Henri Konan Bédié in the eighties and nineties, fought to impose a multi-party system, at the head of violently repressed demonstrations by the regime, which resulted in prison and exile. In a Country dominated by large bourgeois families, Laurent Gbagbo, with a modest socialist background "reported the words of the poor and those who are frustrated by development and who cannot be forgotten".

Three Key Factors Behind Laurent Gbagbo's Return to Côte d'Ivoire

14 JUNE 2021

Radio France Internationale

By David Roe With RFI

Côte d'Ivoire's former president, Laurent Gbagbo, is to return home later this week after almost a decade in which he was tried and acquitted of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

Gbagbo was ousted in April 2011 after a conflict sparked by his refusal to accept electoral defeat at the hands of Alassane Ouattara, the current president.

Around 3,000 people died in the brief war, which divided the West African state along north-south lines.

Today, trauma and bitter memories mingle with mounting joy among Gbagbo's supporters at his imminent return. His homecoming is widely seen as a crucial test of stability.

Here are some of the key issues behind his return:

1. His role as statesman

Gbagbo is aged 76, but few expect this wily political veteran to go into retirement.

He is a cult figure for many in the party that he built, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), which has been calling vociferously for his return ever since his acquittal was pronounced in 2019. Prosecutors appealed the ruling, but it was upheld by the ICC on 31 March.

The FPI's campaign for Gbagbo's return gained traction last year after Côte d'Ivoire spiralled into electoral violence, triggered when Ouattara declared he would bid for a third term -- a move that critics said violated the constitution.

After scores of deaths and a ballot largely boycotted by the opposition, Ouattara found himself re-elected by a landslide -- but presides over a divided country fearful of another descent into bloodshed.

Against this background, Ouattara has tendered an olive branch to his former rival, offering Gbagbo a role in "national reconciliation" -- a policy yet to be detailed in full -- and promising him the rewards and status due to a former head of state.

Former President Gbagbo's Cote d'Ivoire Return Could Be Delayed https://t.co/TH3drgCUku #Ivorycoast pic.twitter.com/uFez3zrRh5 - allAfrica.com (@allafrica) June 10, 2021

Gbagbo's supporters insist he will return in peace and help the country to heal, but commentators wonder whether he will stick to his allotted role of statesman.

"The wounds are still open... and the authorities are worried that Gbagbo will stir up the crowds again, which is one of his hallmarks," said Rinaldo Depagne, a researcher at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, told the French news agency

If Gbagbo actively worked on reconciliation, "this would be a good thing, because he carries considerable weight," he said.

It would also be in Gbagbo's interest, said Depagne, enabling him to "end his career, with all its ups and downs, on a high note".

2. Ageing trio

Much of what happens after Gbagbo's return will depend on the chemistry between him, Ouattara and former president Henri Konan Bedie, 87.

They form a trio of powerful men who have dominated Ivorian politics for decades, forging friendships or rivalries with one other according to need.

Bedie succeeded Ivory Coast's post-colonial founding father, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, on his death in 1993. In 2010, he teamed up with Ouattara against Gbagbo.

Today, he is undisputed head of the Democratic Party of the Ivory Coast (PDCI) -- once-ruling but now in opposition.

Bedie has played a key role in calming tensions since the October elections.

He forged a historic alliance with Gbagbo's FPI in legislative elections in March and teamed up with it to organise the former president's homecoming.

Whatever dance now unfolds between the three, the country's political scene will remain in generational stasis.

Gilles Yabi, founder of the Wathi political think-tank, said the advanced age of the top figures "embodies a lack of renewal of the political class and political practices" in Côte d'Ivoire.

"The general feeling is that the future of the country is doomed to be an extension of the distant past," said William Assonvo, an Abidjan-based researcher at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS).

Gbagbo acquittal at ICC raises questions over much-needed court reforms

3. Popularity

Gbagbo's popularity has remained undimmed in the decade he has been away, reaching well beyond his home region of Gagnoa.

He fought to secure multi-party elections as the top opponent to Houphouet-Boigny and later Bedie in the 1980s and 90s, experiencing prison and exile for leading demonstrations that were violently put down by the authorities.

A socialist from a humble background in a country whose politics is dominated by well-off families, Gbagbo "spoke for the poor and those left behind by development, and people don't forget that," ICG expert Depagne said.

He remains "a rare orator... gifted with words in a country where people love to talk and love humour," Depagne added.

(with newswires)

Somalia: Puntland Moves to Ban Female Genital Mutilation

11 JUNE 2021

By Mohammed Omer

Banning female genital mutilation (FGM) would help curb the centuries-old practice in Somalia, which has the world's highest rates of FGM, say campaigners

Garowe - Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region has taken a first step towards banning female genital mutilation (FGM) in a country where almost all women and girls are forced to undergo the internationally condemned practice.

Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni and his cabinet this week approved a bill to be submitted to parliament that would criminalise the ancient ritual, a measure anti-FGM campaigners said would boost their efforts to end the practice.

"It will be forbidden to circumcise girls. Girls in Puntland must be left the way they are born. Anyone who performs circumcision in the region will face the full force of the law," Puntland Justice Minister Awil Sheikh Hamud told reporters.

Justice Ministry officials said the bill includes stiff penalties for those who perform FGM, including hospitals, midwives and traditional circumcisers. No date has yet been set for it to be presented before parliament for a vote.

FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia, is almost universal in Somalia - with 98% of women and girls having been cut, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

There is currently no national law outlawing FGM in the Horn of Africa country.

Both Puntland and the breakaway state of Somaliland have issued fatwas - religious edicts - against the practice in the past, but there is no parliamentary legislation is in place.

FGM affects 200 million girls and women globally and can lead to a host of serious medical problems, according to the World Health Organization.

It can cause long-lasting mental and physical health problems including chronic infections, menstrual problems, infertility, pregnancy and childbirth complications. In some cases, girls can bleed to death or die from infections.

In many communities, girls are married soon after cutting, stifling their progress in education, health and employment.

School closures caused by the pandemic could lead to an extra two million girls being cut in the next decade, the UNFPA has estimated, hampering global efforts to stamp out the practice by 2030.

In Somalia, where the vaginal opening is also often sewn up - a practice called infibulation - charities have reported a surge in cases as circumcisers offer door-to-door services for girls stuck at home due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Campaigners said legislation banning FGM would boost their fight to end the practice.

Hailing it as a "great milestone", the UNFPA's head in Somalia, Anders Thomsen, said the bill would "have a ripple effect in the campaign to end FGM in Puntland" if approved.

"This means girls will be safe from the brutal cut," he added in a statement.

Somali anti-FGM campaigner Maymun Mahad said she still remembered undergoing the "very painful" practice.

"As a young woman, I welcome the move by the cabinet," she said.

Africa: Expert Views-G7 Climate Commitments Judged Too Weak to Bag Cop26 Success

13 JUNE 2021

By Megan Rowling

Green groups say a lack of fresh finance to help developing countries adopt renewable energy and adapt to a warmer planet threatens key climate talks in November

Leaders of G7 wealthy nations said on Sunday that 2021 should be a "turning point for our planet", faced with an "existential threat" from the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

In a joint communique at the end of a summit in Britain, they agreed to support "a green revolution that creates jobs, cuts emissions and seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees" above pre-industrial times.

They said they would cut their climate-heating emissions to net-zero by 2050, halve their collective emissions by 2030 from 2010 levels, and boost climate finance for developing nations.

They also pledged to protect at least 30% of their land and oceans by 2030, adding "we acknowledge our duty to safeguard the planet for future generations".

Climate campaigners welcomed a commitment to phase out funding for new coal-power plants overseas by the end of 2021. But they lamented the lack of stronger targets for putting a stop to use of coal, oil and gas at home.

They also criticised a lack of clarity on how rich nations will meet an overdue promise to raise $100 billion a year for poorer countries to adopt clean energy and adapt to a warmer planet, with only Germany and Canada offering new money.

Green groups said the G7 leaders had not done enough to ensure the success of key COP26 climate talks in Scotland in November, which are tasked with finalising the rules for the full implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Here are some of their reactions:

Nick Mabey, chief executive, E3G

"G7 leaders made some credible progress on climate action but failed to back this up with enough financial firepower to tackle the global COVID, economic and climate crises. This G7 leaves the success of COP26 on a knife edge. (Britain and Italy's leaders) Johnson and Draghi, as hosts of COP26 and the G20, need to bring G7 leaders back together in the autumn to put the financial muscle behind today's warm words."

Teresa Anderson, climate policy coordinator, ActionAid International

"The G7's reaffirmation of the previous $100 billion a year target doesn't come close to addressing the urgency and scale of the crisis. When it comes to climate finance, empty rhetoric won't pay the bills or deliver the action needed to avert climate catastrophe.

"The G7 must announce real finance through grants and stop turning a blind eye while the world's poorest and most marginalised, including women and girls in the Global South, are hit hardest by devastating cyclones, floods and rising sea levels."

Catherine Pettengell, Climate Action Network UK interim director

"G7 leaders have missed the boat in Cornwall on climate action and setting up success at COP26. Despite talking about the scale of the crisis, few concrete outcomes have been achieved.

"Multiple commitments for climate action have been made and remade, but the summit has not provided the significant climate finance needed - or the prioritisation of adaptation finance urgently needed by communities and countries on the frontline of the climate crisis. Urgent action is now needed to steer a course towards COP26 that will deliver on the promises of the Paris Agreement."

Patrick Watt, director of policy and campaigns, Christian Aid

"This summit was an opportunity for the richest nations of the world to tackle the perfect storm of the pandemic, the climate emergency, and the debt crisis that is hitting the world's poorest people hardest.

"The G7 leadership has failed to make real progress in any of these areas. The success of the COP26 climate summit now hangs in the balance. There is still time for rich nations to deliver a solidarity package that tackles these interconnected crises. Without it, the COP will fail."

Gareth Redmond-King, COP26 lead, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit

"It is significant for November's climate summit in Glasgow that leaders of the wealthiest nations clearly acknowledge the action needed to keep to 1.5C of temperature rise, including ending our global reliance on coal. But with just five months until COP26, there is still a very long way to go from Cornwall to Glasgow, with delivery of climate promises lacking. This includes country emissions pledges, where recent analysis shows the G7 barely half way to committing what is needed."

Laurie van der Burg, senior campaigner, Oil Change International

"The G7 has now fallen squarely behind what leading economists, energy analysts, and global civil society have shown is required: an end to public finance for all fossil fuels. Our climate cannot afford further delay, and the failure of the G7 to heed these demands means more people impacted by the ravages of our climate chaos."

John Sauven, executive director, Greenpeace UK

"This summit feels like a broken record of the same old promises. There's a new commitment to ending overseas investment in coal, which is their piece de resistance. But without agreeing to end all new fossil fuel projects - something that must be delivered this year if we are to limit dangerous rises in global temperature - this plan falls very short.

"The G7's plan doesn't go anywhere near far enough when it comes to a legally binding agreement to stop the decline of nature by 2030. And the finance being offered to poorer nations is simply not new, nor enough, to match the scale of the climate crisis."

Ruth Valerio, director of advocacy, Tearfund

"This weekend has been full of hollow words with little more than spare change on the table to end support for fossil fuels and bring about the green revolution we desperately need.

"Empty promises will do nothing for the 132 million people who will be pushed into extreme poverty this decade by the climate emergency. Cutting the aid budget has left the UK weak on the global stage and failing to lead in a vital year in the fight against the climate crisis."

Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

Africa: What Should Be Done to End Pandemic As G7 Vaccine Plan Disappoints?

14 JUNE 2021

By Nita Bhalla and Naimul Karim

The G7's plan to donate a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries within a year lacks ambition and does not move quickly enough to end the world's worst health crisis in a century, development charities and health campaigners said.

Leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) major economies announced the plan at a weekend summit, but their pledge does not include entirely new resources and is also far short of the 5 billion to 6 billion shots needed by poorer nations.

While those campaigning for more equitable vaccine distribution said the plan was a step in the right direction, rich nations had failed to grasp the urgency needed to beat the pandemic.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation asked health experts and anti-poverty campaigners what steps they think are needed:

SHARE MORE VACCINES

Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the African Union's Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance:

"The G7 vaccine plan is frankly quite depressing. It's too little and the timeframe for donations is very late. I expected something more robust.

"I think the United States came to the G7 meeting with true intent and brought with it a pledge of 500 million doses. That was the marker to match - but no other country rose to the occasion.

"We need much more in terms of vaccine and most important we need to get the vaccines into the arms of people now as we see third waves occur in countries such as Uganda and South Africa."

AN ACCELERATED TIMELINE

Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, the U.N. Children's Fund:

"As the pandemic rages, the virus mutates and produces new variants that could potentially threaten the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. We are in a fierce race. Donating doses now is smart policy that speaks to our collective best interests.

"Several forecasts suggest G7 countries will have enough vaccine supplies to donate 1 billion doses by as early as the end of 2021.

"In addition to these generous vaccine pledges, UNICEF and the many organizations and countries involved with distribution and readiness need clear timelines regarding when the vaccines will be available.

"This is a particularly important element for successfully delivering the vaccines in countries with poor health infrastructure.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of children, affecting every aspect of their lives: their health, education, protection and future prosperity.

"Now, more than ever, what we do today will have significant and lasting impact on our collective tomorrows. There is no time to waste."

WAIVE PATENTS

Max Lawson, Oxfam's head on inequality policy:

"The G7 leaders have failed to protect millions of people from the deadly threat of COVID-19.

"They say they want to vaccinate the world by the end of next year, but their actions show they care more about protecting the monopolies and patents of pharmaceutical giants.

"Sharing vaccines will only get us so far - we need all G7 nations to follow the lead of the U.S., France and over 100 other nations in backing a waiver on intellectual property.

"By holding vaccine recipes hostage, the virus will continue raging out of control in developing countries and put millions of lives at risk.

"(British) Prime Minister (Boris) Johnson and (German) Chancellor (Angela) Merkel are insisting on defending the monopolies of pharmaceutical companies over people's lives, which is completely inexcusable."

SUPPORT IN-COUNTRY DISTRIBUTION

Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the African Union's Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance:

"We need a vaccination plan for the entire Global South that not only delivers the vaccines from ports and airports but also into people's arms.

"Those donating vaccines through COVAX (the programme that distributes COVID-19 shots to low- and middle-income countries) must understand that COVAX's responsibility ends when the vaccines arrive in-country.

"How are countries whose health systems already struggling due to these fresh waves, how are they going to get them into people's arms?"

GLOBAL VACCINE FUND

Nazrul Islam, virologist and member of Bangladesh's National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19:

"There could be a global fund from which countries can take loans. The nations that have the paying capacity can take the loans, buy the vaccines and pay the loan back.

"As for countries that don't have the capacity to pay the loans back, they should be given the vaccines for free.

"For example, Bangladesh can take a loan and pay it back, but there are many African countries which won't be able to pay it back. So we have to make sure that these populations shouldn't be deprived."

African Continent Exceeds 5 Million Confirmed Cases of Covid-19

file photo

14 JUNE 2021

allAfrica.com

Cape Town — As of June 14, confirmed cases of Covid-19 from 55 African countries reached 5,041,382 while over 28,179,798 vaccinations have been administered across the continent.

Reported deaths in Africa reached 134,662 and 4,475,763 people have recovered. South Africa has the most reported cases - 1,747,082 - and 57,765 people died. Other most-affected countries are Morocco (523,890), Tunisia (368,908), Ethiopia (274,187), Egypt (273,182), Libya (189,059) and Kenya (175,337).

For the latest totals, see the AllAfrica interactive map with per-country numbers. The numbers are compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (world map) using statistics from the World Health Organization and other international institutions as well as national and regional public health departments.

Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda, 97, Hospitalized amid Virus Surge

By NOEL SICHALWE

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2015 file photo, former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Patriotic Front's Edgar Lungu, in Lusaka. The country's first president, Kaunda, 97, has been admitted to hospital, his office announced Monday, June 14, 2021, as the southern African country battles a surge in COVID-19. (AP Photo/Moses Mwape, File)

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) — Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda, 97, has been admitted to hospital, his office announced Monday, as the southern African country battles a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Kaunda asked for “all Zambians and the international community to pray for him as the medical team is doing everything possible to ensure that he recovers,” according to the statement issued by Kaunda’s administrative assistant Rodrick Ngolo.

The short statement did not specify the cause of Kaunda’s illness, but Zambia is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and the country’s founding president was admitted to Maina Soko Medical Center, a treatment center for the disease in the capital, Lusaka.

Zambia’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen dramatically over the past two weeks from 1.44 new cases per 100,000 people on May 30 to 8.91 new cases per 100,000 people on June 13.

Zambia, with a population of about 18 million people, has a cumulative total of nearly 108,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 1,348 deaths, according to figures released Monday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kaunda was a leader of the campaign that ended British colonial rule and he became Zambia’s first democratically elected president in 1964. He led the country, which became a one-party state, until 1991 when he was defeated in an election following the introduction of multiparty politics.

During his rule, Kaunda made Zambia a center for anti-colonial groups fighting to end white minority rule in southern African countries including Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Kaunda allowed the guerilla organizations to maintain military bases, training camps, refugee centers and administrative offices. 

South Africa Rejects 2m J&J Vaccines Due to FDA Decision

By MOGOMOTSI MAGOME

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been hit by further delays as it will have to discard at least 2 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines produced in the country.

The vaccines were found by the U.S Food and Drug Administration to be unsuitable for use due to possible contamination of their ingredients at a Baltimore plant. South Africa was expecting to use them to inoculate its health care workers and people aged 60 years and older.

This is the latest setback to South Africa’s vaccine rollout which has so far given shots to just over 1% of its 60 million people.

Early this year the country rejected about 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it received from the Serum Institute of India after a small, preliminary study found that the vaccine offered minimal protection against mild to moderate cases of the COVID-19 variant that is dominant in South Africa. Those vaccines were sold to the African Union for distribution to other African countries.

To date, the country has given jabs to more than 1.7 million people, including nearly 480,000 health workers who were inoculated as part of a study trial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The production of the J&J vaccine at South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare manufacturing plant in the eastern city of Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, was eagerly awaited to give a much-needed boost to the country’s vaccination drive. The factory has contracted with J&J to produce the vaccine using large batches of the basic ingredients supplied by Johnson & Johnson. The South African plant then blends those components and puts them in vials - a process knowns as “fill and finish.”

The South African plant has the capacity to produce about 200 million doses annually of the J&J vaccine and had already manufactured 2 million. But they were produced using ingredients from the Baltimore plant and therefore must not be used, according to the ruling by the FDA and South Africa’s health officials.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority issued a statement saying it had “reviewed the data provided by the FDA and has made a decision not to release vaccines produced using the drug substance batches that were not suitable.”

South Africa will now only receive 300,000 doses of the J&J vaccine which have been cleared by the FDA, it said.

Aspen will begin production of new J&J vaccines using fresh, uncontaminated ingredients at its facility this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced this week.

South Africa has purchased and is expecting delivery of 30 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 31 million single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines by early 2022. These deliveries are necessary for South Africa to achieve its goal of vaccinating 40 million people by February 2022.

South Africa is currently experiencing a new resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic with an increased number of recorded infections. Its 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has more than doubled over the past two weeks from 5.69 new cases per 100,000 people on May 30 to 12.17 new cases per 100,000 people on June 13.

It recorded 7,657 new infections and 59 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing to 57, 765 the number of people who have died from the virus.

South Africa has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 on the continent, with more than 1.7 million confirmed cases, representing nearly 40% of the more than 5 million cases reported by Africa’s 54 countries.

Galp to Hold off on LNG Investment Until Mozambique Ensures Security

By Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal’s Galp Energia , a partner in an Exxon Mobil-led gas consortium in Mozambique, will not invest in onshore plants there until authorities guarantee security and social stability, which may take time, CEO Andy Brown told Reuters.

This marks a second setback to Mozambique’s hopes to develop a major liquefied nature gas (LNG) hub in the coming years after TotalEnergies suspended its own, separate LNG project in the country.

Attacks by militants in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region, near the $30 billion Rovuma liquefied natural gas project, have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee the area.

The Mozambican government has said it expects the consortium to take the final investment decision, already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year.

But the CEO of Galp, which has a 10% stake in the consortium, told Reuters on Monday his company did not include investments in Rovuma’s onshore facilities in its net capital expenditure plan for the next five years.

“It means that at the moment it’s very hard for us to predict when the time to invest will be,” Brown said.

“Last year we were really planning to have built Rovuma by 2025 and I don’t want to make a promise on Rovuma and then disappoint the market again,” he said.

“We continue to monitor security developments in the region,” said Exxon spokesperson Todd Spitler, adding that the company is working with the government of Mozambique “to enable development of this world class resource.”

The other major partner, Italy’s Eni, declined to comment.

“Before Galp starts investing in the project, the government needs to work with the local population to create the right kind of stability and social cohesion, as well as security, on the ground ... That may take a while,” Brown said.

Brown said that once France’s TotalEnergies, which stopped construction of a separate LNG project near Rovuma due to the latest attacks in March and is working with Mozambique to ensure stability in the area, has reliably resumed the work, “we will be in a position to consider our own project”.

Despite the setbacks, Mozambique with its attractive gas projects is “a really important country for Galp”, Brown said, and the consortium is “working to get the cost to a level where this project is really competitive”.

Brown said that over the next five years, Brazil will absorb “the vast majority” of the 320 million to 400 million euros ($388 million to $485 million) of net capex which Galp has allocated to upstream annually, while there will be “some investment in floating LNG in Mozambique and some small investments in Angola”.

The investments in Brazil will be “mostly allocated to already sanctioned developments, including the Bacalhau I,” he said.

($1 = 0.8252 euros)

Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Jennifer Hiller; editing by Andrei Khalip, Jason Neely and Lisa Shumaker

Australia's Fortescue in Talks for World's Biggest Hydropower Project in Congo

By Reuters Staff

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Fortescue Metals Group adorns their headquarters in Perth, Australia, November 11, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group said on Tuesday it was in talks with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to develop a hydroelectric power project in the country that would become the largest in the world.

Discussions were centered around exclusive rights for Fortescue’s green energy unit to develop the Grand Inga Hydroelectric projects, but no formal binding agreement has been concluded, Fortescue said in a filing to the Australian Securities Exchange.

The proposed expansion project to two dams at Inga Falls, among the world’s largest waterfalls, which are 225 kilometres (140 miles) southwest of Kinshasa, would be able to supply 42,000 megawatts of power to sub-Saharan Africa. That is roughly double the size of China’s Three Gorges dam, currently the world’s largest, and development costs have been estimated at $80 billion.

The World Bank suspended a $73.1 million grant to the Congo project in 2016 because of a strategic development decision that had not been among the terms initially agreed, it said at the time.

“The DRC Government has invited interested corporations and governments to contact Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) if they have investment or service interest in the Inga Projects on the condition that personnel will be trained and sourced from the DRC as Fortescue has done in Australia,” it said.

Fortescue has said it plans to fund the majority of its green energy projects off its balance sheet, investing about $1 billion a year of its own money.

The statement was made in response to an article in the Australian Financial Review.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Kenneth Maxwell

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sudan, Egypt Met in Khartoum Over How to Make Ethiopia Sign “Biding Deal”

June 10, 2021

Egypt seeks action from United Nations Security Council to pressure Ethiopia to sign a “binding deal,” before second phase of GERD filling 

Borkena

Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, and the Irrigation Minister, Abdel Aty, were in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Wednesday this week when they met with their counterparts from Sudan. 

They met to discuss how to make Ethiopia sign a “binding agreement” over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam before the second filling of the dam, which is scheduled for next month. 

According to a report by Reuters, the two countries have reached an agreement and issued a joint statement. They agreed “to coordinate efforts to push Ethiopia to negotiate “seriously” on an agreement on filling and operating a giant dam it is building on the Blue Nile.”

Sudan Tribune reported that the two countries also agreed “to coordinate bilateral efforts at the regional, continental and international levels to press Ethiopia to negotiate in good faith and true political will to reach a comprehensive, fair and legally binding agreement on filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam.”

As the disputes over GERD heightens, the two countries rushed to sign a military cooperation agreement in March of this year- something many understood to be a sort of psychological war against Ethiopia. Not just that, in late May of this year, they undertook joint military training in  Sudan involving air and ground forces of the two countries. 

Meanwhile, on Thursday Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry had a conversation with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres regarding GERD.  He reportedly told him that “Security Council can push Ethiopia to ‘engage in serious negotiations with an honest political will’ to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD),” as reported by Ahram. 

The last trilateral meeting between the three countries was held in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the African Union playing a leading role in brokering the deal.  The agreement reached a deadlock after Egypt and Sudan proposed changing the role of observers (namely United States, UN and European Union)  to a level that could impact the outcome of the negotiation. 

Ethiopia says the demand for “binding agreement” before the second filling of the GERD, which is expected to retain 13.9 billion cubic meters of water to run two turbines for early power generation, violates the Declaration of Principle agreement that the three countries signed in 2015. 

Another important difference is that Egypt and Sudan want to transform the negotiation in a way to make it a deal over the Nile river. Ethiopia rather wants the negotiation to be about GERD – particularly about the filling and operation of the dam. Even regarding the operation of the dam, ideas from Egypt to have an office in the project site to monitor operation is something that Ethiopia considers to be a violation of Ethiopia’s sovereignty for which the government seems to have popular support.