Thursday, July 29, 2021

AFTER POWER GRAB, TUNISIA'S SAIED DECLARES GRAFT CRACKDOWN

Saied slammed the "bad economic choices" made in recent years, during a meeting with a leader of the employers' federation UTICA.

Academic Kais Saied celebrates his victory in the Tunisian presidential election in the capital Tunis on 13 October 2019. Picture: AFP

AFP 

TUNIS - Tunisia's President Kais Saied accused 460 businessmen of embezzlement as he declared a crackdown on corruption, days after grabbing power in what his opponents have labelled a "coup".

Saied, who suspended parliament for 30 days and seized all executive powers on Sunday, slammed the "bad economic choices" made in recent years, during a meeting with a leader of the employers' federation UTICA.

In his comments late Wednesday, the president singled out for criticism "those who plunder public money".

Saied accused the 460 businesspeople of owing 13.5 billion dinars ($4.9 billion) to the state, citing the findings of a commission of inquiry into graft under former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

"This money must be returned to the Tunisian people," he said, adding that he intends to offer them "judicial arbitration".

In exchange for dropping proceedings, the reimbursed money would be injected into less developed parts of Tunisia.

Saied also asked traders and wholesalers to "lower prices" in a crisis-hit economy where soaring inflation has eaten away at the purchasing power of consumers.

He also called for a revival of phosphate production, one of the country's few natural resources often used for agricultural fertiliser.

Gafsa Phosphate Company, a former flagship of the Tunisian economy, has seen its production collapse since the 2011 revolution that toppled Ben Ali, due to a lack of investment and bouts of social unrest.

Saied raised suspicions of corruption that surround the industry, referring to "people in parliament who protect themselves with parliamentary immunity".

GRAFT PROBE

Hours before his comments, prosecutors appointed by Saied as part of emergency measures announced the opening of an investigation into political parties suspected of receiving foreign funds for campaigning in 2019 elections.

The probe, initially opened on July 14, before Saied's power grab, targets Ennahdha, which has been part of all coalitions since the 2011 revolution, as well as its liberal ally Qalb Tounes and the Aich Tounsi movement.

After months of political crisis, Saied, whose presidential duties are normally limited to diplomacy and security, seized power on Sunday by invoking the constitution.

The move was denounced as a "coup d'etat" by his main opponents, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party.

Before his power grab, Saied, an austere legal academic who won office in 2019 thanks to his virulent criticism of political parties, had been well known for his stance against corruption.

Saied in January blocked a cabinet reshuffle by prime minister Hichem Mechichi, whom he sacked on Sunday, citing suspected conflicts of interest and corruption by some ministers.

While the power grab has been welcomed by many Tunisians struggling to make ends meet and fed up by the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has sparked concern at home and abroad.

On Wednesday evening, the president also announced the establishment of a crisis unit to manage the COVID outbreak, supervised by a senior military officer.

Tunisia has been facing a new peak in the pandemic in recent weeks.

The North African country of around 12 million people has one of the worst COVID death rates in the world, with 19,000 fatalities linked to the coronavirus.

South Africa is Sending Troops to Mozambique

By AFP

Jul 29, 2021 06:28 PM

South Africa is sending almost 1,500 troops to Mozambique to help its neighbor battle jihadists wreaking havoc in the gas-rich north of the country, part of a growing multinational force there.

In a statement on Wednesday, parliament said President Cyril Ramaphosa had authorized the deployment of as many as 1,495 soldiers to support Mozambique in its fight against "acts of terrorism and violent extremists." 

Attacks have escalated in northern Mozambique over the past year, fueling fears that    violence could spill over into neighboring countries.

Since 2017, the Cabo Delgado region has been battered by a bloody jihadist insurgency that has killed more than 3,100 people, according to conflict data tracker ACLED, and displaced more than 800,000 people.

The three-month mission for South Africa's force - from July 15 to October 15 - is part of a deal agreed in June by the 16 nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The operation is expected to cost the country more than 984 million rand (about $66 million), said the parliamentary statement.

South Africa is the latest country in the region to dispatch troops to Mozambique after Botswana, which sent soldiers on Monday. Earlier in July, Rwanda sent in a 1,000-strong force.

The SADC approved the deployment of its "Standby Force"  in late June to help smoke out the Islamic State-linked militants that have been terrorizing its gas-rich north for nearly four years.

The total force size of the SADC regional deployment is not yet known.

Living in China’s Technological Miracle

CPC’s innovation-driven strategy powers xiaokang society

By Global Times

Jul 29, 2021 08:23 PM

Photo taken on Tuesday shows China's new maglev transportation system in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province. It is currently the world's fastest ground vehicle. Photo: cnsphoto

Editor's Note: On July 1, China declared it had reached its first centenary development goal - building a moderately prosperous society, or xiaokang, in all respects and is marching confidently toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist nation. To decipher what that means in the context of where China is now and where it's heading, the Global Times is publishing a series of multimedia productions about achievements under the xiaokang goal in various aspects. This piece focuses on technological miracles that have changed people's lives.

If China were able to build a time machine and send one of its 1.4 billion citizens back to the late 1970s, the person would be stuck in a kerosene lamp-powered life without any electronics. Communication with family and friends would rely on mail carriers. Long-distance travel would mean standing in slow-moving trains for hours or days. Grocery shopping would require different stamps for different items.

Those are just several aspects of what the life of an ordinary Chinese person looked like before China embarked on what has been an unparalleled journey to building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, or xiaokang - the 2,500-year old concept that was revived by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 to describe China's goal of modernization.

China might not be able to build a time machine. However, the changes brought about by the country's achievement in science and technology for ordinary Chinese people over the past four decades or so are just as magical as they are miraculous.

Thanks to technological breakthroughs in various areas, kerosene lamps have been replaced with smart lights controlled by voice command or even the sole presence of a person and powered by greener energies. Mail carriers have been replaced with 5G-powered equipment ensuring that family and friends are just a button away. Old slow trains have been replaced with ultra-fast high-speed rail. And to buy groceries, you might just need to scan your face, if you have to show up at all.

Over the past four decades, life in most countries around the world has been changed by advances in science and technology, but none could possibly match the pace or the extent of the change in Chinese life. What China has achieved in terms of scientific and technological advances is nothing short of a miracle. 

It's hard to pinpoint China's scientific and technological advances as it leads in countless areas from renewable energy to 5G network, and high-speed rail to artificial intelligence (AI), and has numerous world-leading companies. 

Miraculous advances

Several statistics may put things into perspective. China's annual research and development (R&D) spending grew 169 times over from around 14.3 billion yuan ($2.21 billion) at the beginning of the 1990s to 2.44 trillion yuan in 2020. Based on exchange rate conversion, China's total R&D expenditures overtook Japan's in 2013, becoming the world's second after the US. 

China saw its patent applications flourishing from zero case prior to 1985 to 68,720 filings in 2020, having led the world in the number of patent filings since 2011 and overtaking the US in 2019. China has also surpassed the US in terms of the number of academic research papers in 2016. 

The profound progress in China's scientific and technological capabilities is an integral part of China's xiaokang goal, which contains a sweeping set of targets including economic growth, poverty alleviation, as well as technological innovation. At the centennial of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on July 1, Xi Jinping, Chinese president and general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, declared the completion of the goal and called for further building up of the country's strength in science and technology.

Technological innovation and independence have been included as a core part of the CPC's next centennial goal of building China into a modern socialist power by 2050. And with the CPC's firm leadership, innovation-driven strategies, and unique institutional strength, China is well-positioned to become a technological superpower along the journey to socialist modernization, analysts have said.   

"The institutional advantage of socialism with Chinese characteristics, as reflected in the CPC's centralized and unified leadership, is also a key factor that drives the nation to concentrate its efforts on major tasks in order to make breakthroughs in areas that are closely related to national security and core competitiveness," Sun Fuquan, vice-president of the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development, affiliated with the Ministry of Science and Technology, told the Global Times.

Some current global technological leaders, most notably the US, have been increasingly nervous about China's technological rise and have even moved to contain China's rise. However, just as technological advancements under the xiaokang goal were aimed primarily at improving the livelihood of the Chinese people, China's pursuit of further scientific and technological advances are also aimed at further improving the lives of the Chinese people, analysts have said. 

To understand where China is headed in terms of how future technologies could change lives, it's noteworthy to look back at how China's achievements over the past several decades completely changed the most basic aspects of life that many have taken for granted.    

Kerosene lamp to green brightness 

With China's electricity market design highlighting a wide-reaching network of ultra-high voltage (UHV) transmission lines and a gradual shift toward renewable energy, the country's rise as the world's second-largest economy has been well underpinned by its miraculous advance in terms of power, experts have said. 

Such a miracle apparently overshadows the US, which is still being haunted by blackouts, as slow UHV progress versus an over-reliance on non-renewable energy fundamentally challenges the stability of the US power supply.  

Recollecting herself as a young woman in her mid-20s when the xiaokang goal began, a 65-year-old retiree from East China's Anhui Province surname Xing told the Global Times that a typical nightlife scene then was family members sitting around a kerosene lamp. Later on, during the early days when electric lights became initially available, kerosene lamps, candles, and flashlights remained viable alternatives.

Over four decades on, she now takes the brightness of bulbs as a guarantee wherever she might be and she even has a handful of color-changing lighting devices that react to her touch and could be synced to music. She said she's now gotten accustomed to the company of a wide array of home appliances and electronics gadgets.

As the country continued to gain economic momentum over the years, its electricity consumption has soared amid the influx of various digital gadgets into Chinese households.

Last year, the country's power consumption grew by 3.1 percent from the previous year to 7.51 trillion kilowatt hours, official data showed. Back in 1979, China only consumed 276.2 billion kilowatt hours, media reports said.

Behind the vicissitudes of life is the country's electricity revolution that has rendered different sources of power an increasingly important part of its technological rise. 

With a national network of UHV transmission lines in place that transmit energy over a long distance, linking far-flung interior regions with abundant solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear power to energy-thirsty coastal regions, China has taken the global lead in enabling efficient, cost effective, and environmentally friendly power transmission.

The transition underway toward renewable energy, notably solar and wind power, is considered as the cornerstone of the Chinese economy's aim to hit peak emission by 2030 before becoming carbon neutral by 2060.

By comparison, the US, a major global energy producer and consumer, has made slow progress in building a powerful national electricity grid, although a UHV transmission superstructure is widely seen as a solution to the aging transmission infrastructure that cripples the nation.

Mail carriers to 5G network

Another high-profile technological miracle is the giant leap China has taken in eventually establishing itself as a world leader in 5G, to the extent of unnerving the US which has gone to extreme lengths to sanction Chinese 5G equipment vendors, notably Huawei, industry watchers have said, attributing the feat to the country's continued, forward-looking commitments to updating its telecom infrastructure.

The eagerness for the arrival of mail carriers to make a delayed connection with your friends or family members, and the excitement of making a call on a public rotary dial telephone, among the common things in the earlier decades were only emblems pictured in some TV episodes or movies of that era.

With a 1 billion-strong population of internet users, the country is now acknowledged as the global paradise for mobile communications where tech-savvy users with at least one smartphone are now deeply immersed in a mobile internet-linked world: Real-time video calls or conferences, geographically unbound mobile payments, shopping, food ordering, and taxi-hailing, among other activities that are all powered by the country's almighty mobile network.

By the end of 2020, China's mobile phone subscribers had reached 1.59 billion. In stark contrast, there were only 3,000 subscribers in 1988 when China ushered in the era of mobile communications for the first time.

By the end of 2020, a total of 989 million users in China were enjoying fast connectivity speeds and a rich variety of internet content by surfing on the web. In stark contrast, only 620,000 people could have access to the internet in 1997, the first year that marked China's entrance into the age of the internet.

With internet-related industries taking a huge step, the country has rolled out 916,000 5G base stations, accounting for 70 percent of the world's total, and it's now home to over 365 million 5G-connected devices, making up 80 percent of the world's total, according to latest official data.

The country's rise as a global leader in the 5G era, with domestic heavyweights including Huawei sitting atop the world's 5G-related patents, has unnerved the US in particular. Feeling frequently on edge over the past few years, the US government has gone to desperate lengths to add a rising number of Chinese entities and businesses to its export control and sanction lists.

China, for its part, has been pushing even harder into a head start in next-generation wireless communication. 

In a fresh sign, Shanghai, where its Pudong New Area has recently been declared to be built into a pioneer area for socialist modernization in the coming decades, on July 21 unveiled a plan for the development of strategic, emerging industries during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). The development plan prioritizes breakthroughs in 6G core technologies and the active participation in 6G standardization competitions.

Isolation to high-speed travel 

In yet another instance of China's miraculous rise in the tech world, high-speed rail (HSR) technology and bullet trains are now almost instantly labeled Chinese made, although it is actually China's fast-paced and impressive progress in HSR technology that makes many forget that the first HSR system began operations in Japan. The country's focus on sharpening its edge in higher-end manufacturing arguably makes the case for the HSR miracle, observers have said.  

Riding on an ultra-fast, comfortable HSR from Shanghai to Beijing, Liu, a frequent traveler, booked a food delivery via his smartphone one hour before the train stopped for a few minutes at the station in Ji'nan, capital of East China's Shandong Province.

Receiving a freshly made rice and meat set meal from a restaurant outside the train carriage, Liu told the Global Times how he marveled at the drastic changes of train technologies and services. 

He still recalls the scene a decade ago when standing in the train for a whole night, enduring its slow movement, and felt his feet completely go numb on reaching the destination.

Now the Beijing-Shanghai HSR, one of China's busiest and fastest rail lines, carried 1.35 billion passengers during its first decade of operation, running a distance equivalent to approximately 40,000 revolutions around the globe. It takes only four and a half hours between the two major cities, compared with nearly 17 hours in the 1980s on the green-skinned train.

By the end of 2020, the country had more than 37,900 kilometers of HSR lines in service, the longest in the world, according to China State Railway Group, the country's railway operator.

Marked as a historical breakthrough, the HSR demonstrated to the world the country's growing technology prowess by mastering technology in its own hands that was once held by Japan, Germany, and France, as well as its increasing prosperity as the world's second-largest economy.

Not stopping its pursuit for more advanced HSR technologies, China is among the first in the world to introduce new technology such as autonomous train operation, as evidenced in the high-speed railway line connecting Beijing and Zhangjiakou, the cities to co-host the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

With a maximum design speed of 350 kilometers per hour (kph), the trains can automatically start and stop, run between stations, open and close doors, as well as handle emergencies, marking the first time China will have had autonomous high-speed trains.

To seek higher speed on land, China's self-developed high-speed maglev transportation system running at a speed of 600 kph debuted in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, on July 20, which symbolized a cutting-edge scientific and technological achievement in the field of rail transit.

Stamps to facial scan 

China's spectacular march in artificial intelligence over the past decade is surely another miracle that can't be overlooked when gauging the country's technological revolution at a much later stage of its xiaokang adventure, as the economy's transition toward being innovation-oriented has prioritized AI, alongside big data and cloud computing, among other emerging technologies, to power the economic growth.

As a consequence of the country's stunning leap toward being a trendsetter in AI, face recognition-enabled ticket checking machines have been deployed in a growing number of railway stations across the country. Face recognition clocking in machines are also becoming commonplace in the country.

Thanks to broad-base applications of AI technology into everyday life and the workplace, these technological advancements helped in the quick and effective tracing of virus infections, with the country ahead of other major economies in emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a sign of the country's fabulous stride from a manufacturing hub to a global technology power into the future, China holds 389,571 out of over 520,000 AI patent applications globally over the past decade, according to findings in a report by the Tsinghua University Artificial Intelligence Research Institute earlier this year.

The four Chinese AI heavyweights - Megvii, SenseTime Group, YITU Technology, and CloudWalk - have also in recent years bagged numerous world-class AI-related awards, notably in image recognition and algorithm terms. 

The country has achieved a transition in AI technologies development from a focus on basic research to the enabling of its application into specific industries to AI functioning as infrastructure, Sun Jian, chief scientist of Megvii, said at the AI firm's tech open day in Beijing in mid-July.

As part of efforts to close China's gap with the US in the AI ecosystem, Megvii has unveiled its proprietary open-source deep learning framework, MegEngine, as a new, promising alternative to Google's TensorFlow and Facebook-backed PyTorch.

Maps to navigation satellites

Last but not the least, a number of milestones China has hit in the aerospace spotlight the country's enviable miracle in space technology, backed by efforts of several generations of China's space industry experts to turn the country into a space power.

An autonomous driving car packed with vegetables, fruits, and fresh seafood was driving to a residential area in Beijing's Shunyi district in July 2020 when the coronavirus epidemic put many people to stay at home.

By receiving the signal of BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), the driverless car could adjust its route in real time operation while being guaranteed to stay on the right track. 

It was just one of various scenarios that the Chinese home-grown navigation system was applied to in quotidian life.

With the last BDS satellite successfully sent into space in June 2020, it marked the completion of the country's domestically developed BeiDou constellation.

The satellite system has now become part of usual technological advances in China in the space area; however, it was hard to imagine how Chinese pioneers overcame difficulties in extreme conditions to undertake "mission impossible" back in the 1970s.

With the familiar melody of "Dongfanghong", a Chinese song that pays tribute to Chairman Mao, broadcasting from space, China's first man-made satellite Dongfanghong-1 was successfully launched in 1970. The launch was via China's own booster - Long March 1 rocket, making China the fifth nation to put a spacecraft into orbit using its own rocket.

By that moment, China had proved to the world that it could realize what other foreign countries could. China's aerospace development started late from a low point, but has achieved outstanding progress in a short period of time. Through the efforts and contributions of several generations of people engaging in the aerospace cause, China has caught up with the world's other aerospace powers.

Following successful tests of its first atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb in the 1960s, and the Dongfanghong-1 satellite, China opened a new chapter in space exploration, sending hundreds of self-developed spacecrafts including man-made satellites, crewed spacecrafts, and space probes.

The space industry has produced a remarkable score over the past two years characterized by the nation's first independent Mars mission and the Chang'e 5 mission that retrieved rock and soil samples from the moon.

The latest advance came as China sent three taikonauts into orbit in June via the Shenzhou-12 spaceship, the first of four crewed space flights to complete the country's space station by the end of 2022.

US Terrorizes on COVID-19 Origins-tracing: Official

Blinken-WHO chief talks on origins studies part of Washington's political maneuver: experts

By Chen Qingqing

Published: Jul 29, 2021 09:57 PM

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese diplomats rejected again the political agenda driven by the Biden administration on the COVID-19 origins-tracing and denounced the US government for engaging in a "terror-making" campaign on the matter. As it has become clearer that Washington is turning the origins studies into a political maneuver, more foreign scientists have regretted contributing to the US-led conspiracy theory that has been seriously impeding global efforts in scientific research.  Some believed that the latest meeting between the US and WHO chief was merely "playing politics."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Kuwait on Wednesday, affirming US support for the WHO's plans to conduct additional studies into the COVID-19 origins, including in China, to better understand the current pandemic and prevent future ones, according to a statement on the website of US Department of State. The US top diplomat said in the statement that origins-tracing will be scientific, transparent, expert-led and free from interference. 

"This clearly shows that the director-general is playing politics," a person close to the WHO-China joint team on origins-tracing work told the Global Times on Thursday. For his re-election next year and by including the lab leak theory as part of his request for the next-phase study, the WHO chief has pushed a political agenda into a scientific question and lined up support from the US to help with his re-election, the person said, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

It's become an open secret for scientists in China and overseas that the US has been pressuring the WHO on COVID-19 origins-tracing in recent months, as there has been invisible pressure formed after the signal of its return to the international organization in January and announcing to pay the millions of dollars it owed to the WHO. 

The meeting with Blinken also sent a message "to other member states that they will be supporting his re-election as a quid pro quo for him bringing politics into the virus origins work," the person said. 

The Chinese health authority rejected WHO's phase-2 COVID-19 origins study last week, calling it lacking respect to common sense and arrogant to science amid rising politicized moves of the US government on the matter, as the WHO's plan was proposed when the US-led West intensifies the politics-driven conspiracy about a lab leak theory and exerted political pressure on international scientists to give up their scientific position on the origins issue.

After being aware of such ill-intentioned political attempts, some foreign scientists also began to openly call on a scientific and fact-based research on the origins-tracing. For instance, Pamela Bjorkman, a biology professor at the California Institute of Technology, said in a letter quoted by the Xinhua News Agency that she did not anticipate a letter to Science asking for increased investigation into the origins of COVID-19 would be used to promote the lab origins hypothesis. 

She also explained that her motive for adding her name to the letter was assuming that the letter would have the effect of prompting more funding for searching for natural viruses in animal reservoirs, which she has always assumed represent the origins of COVID-19infections in humans. 

Science published an open letter in May entitled "Investigate the origins of COVID-19" saying the probe must "take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data," which has revived the US-led lab leak conspiracy theory targeting a Chinese lab in Wuhan. 

Bjorkman was quoted as saying in the report that she should have been more proactive, should not have signed the letter, or requested more changes in the wording to make her position clear. 

When asked about the latest proposal from the Blinken-Ghebreyesus talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday that he wanted to clarify three points. China agrees COVID-19 origins-tracing should be evidence-based, expert-led, and free from interference. But US hyped the "lab leak" theory and ignored relevant clues like to-be-tested blood samples. China took actions to support origins-tracing work on a global scale, and with the WHO-China joint team study, scientists reached a clear conclusion for the phase-one study, so the next-phase study should be conducted on a global scale. 

The US is guilty of three sins in epidemic response and origins-tracing, Zhao said, noting that the US has always put the political maneuver over epidemic prevention, becoming a super virus spreader after failing to contain the outbreak and hiding the true numbers of confirmed infections and the death toll. 

The US government has been engaging in a terror-making campaign on origins-tracing, as from using the term "China virus" to spreading rumors and suppressing scientists. Their actions are no different from practicing "terrorism on origins-tracing," Zhao added. 

Dai Bing, charge d'affaires of China's permanent mission to the UN, also strongly refuted the groundless accusations the US made against China on Wednesday, saying that the US "has completely lost its scientific ethics and moral bottom line" on the origins-tracing issue.

The WHO should not fall into the political trap of the US government, turning itself into a political tool for the Biden administration in wrestling with China, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"The anticipated WHO reform can't become a geopolitical battle to represent values of only few countries, as that would go against the organization's genuine goal of serving global public health," Li said. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson also affirmed on Thursday that the phase two study on the origins-tracing should not repeat the phase one study, as the WHO-China joint report has already concluded that the lab leak theory was "extremely unlikely," and the next phase should focus on the zoonotic source and reservoir, pushing forward studies in multiple places worldwide. 

However, there are still questions unanswered in the most hard-hit place - the US on the origins-tracing. And if the US government truly supports the origins studies, it should respond to the rising call as an online petition for a probe into the Fort Detrick lab on COVID-19 origins has gathered nearly 18 million signatures as of Thursday, Zhao said.

Nanjing Outbreak Spreads to 5 Provinces and Beijing; Most Extensive Contagion after Wuhan

By GT staff reporters

Jul 29, 2021 10:38 PM 

A billboard outside a shopping mall reads "Nanjing, stand strong" on Wednesday as the city in East China's Jiangsu Province is fighting a fresh COVID-19 resurgence, which had infected 159 in the province and spread to at least 10 cities in five provinces (See story on Page 4). Photo: cnsphoto

A new surge of COVID-19 cases starting from an airport of Nanjing, capital city of East China's Jiangsu Province, has spread to five other provinces and Beijing municipality, the most extensive domestic contagion after Wuhan.

Since the first confirmed case of the latest outbreak was detected on July 20 at Nanjing Lukou International Airport, nearly 200 infections have been reported as of Thursday morning. Compared to previous rounds of domestic virus resurgences that were usually limited to one city or a few nearby cities, the Nanjing epidemic occurred at a busy international airport, and trans-regional passengers traveling for long distance soon brought the virus across the country to places including Southwest China's Sichuan and Northeast China's Liaoning, experts noted.

Zhangjiajie, a popular tourist site in Hunan Province and the shooting location of the James Cameron's blockbuster Avatar, is believed to be another key node on the infection chain. Four infected cases who had been to the Lukou airport were found watching a cultural performance with more than 2,000 people in Zhangjiajie on July 22. Beijing reported two confirmed cases who returned from Zhangjiajie on Thursday.

The highly transmissible Delta variant strain also led to the quick spread of the virus nationwide, Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

The unexpected and extensive contagion starting from Nanjing has a strong psychological impact on the public, many of whom have loosened daily protective efforts or are planning their summer vacations, but have to cancel them. 

"It's time for us to detect possible loopholes in our epidemic prevention and control efforts," Wang said, noting even cities that haven't found Nanjing-related infections should stay alert.

Many cities across China have ramped up screening for close contacts and identify residents who have been to Nanjing or other cities where confirmed cases have been found and tightened prevention work. For example, authorities in Handan, North China's Hebei Province, and Hulun Buir in North China's Inner Mongolia have also released epidemiological investigation results of some close contacts of cases confirmed in Nanjing.  

Raising the alarm

The new surge in Nanjing as well as the flare-up in Southwest China's Yunnan Province shared similarities as they were all related to imported cases, which raised the alarm that anti-epidemic work must avoid a lax attitude and management needs to be further strengthened in airports, entry and exit ports and transportation hubs, experts warned. 

Nanjing has been comparatively slow in taking action, but fortunately the city is still in the early stage of the outbreak, Chen Xi, an assistant professor of public health at Yale University, told the Global Times. 

The surge in Nanjing would last longer than the outbreak outside the city, but accelerated screening and epidemiological investigation will help curb virus transmission, Chen said.

The current outbreak in Nanjing is a small one caused by imported cases in the area, which is not on the same level as the pandemic in other countries. The outbreak was detected at an early stage and the measures taken were strong. It is believed that the epidemic will be under control in a short time, Shao Yiming, a leading physician and immunologist from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at an interview during the launch of the Report on the Global Use of COVID-19 Vaccines with Global Times on Thursday.

Experts reached by the Global Times said that the epidemic is still controllable since confirmed cases in other provinces are linked to the source of the outbreak in Nanjing Lukou International Airport. 

Always staying vigilant against virus spread is one of the biggest lessons that people can learn from the latest outbreak in Nanjing, said Zhou Zijun, a professor at Peking University's School of Public Health.

Preventing and controlling the virus with strict measures is routine, especially for those who work at international transport hubs like the Nanjing Lukou airport, where the imported COVID-19 cases were found, Zhou said. 

"Quarantine and regular nucleic acid tests are still necessary, as some people who have been vaccinated only have mild symptoms after being infected, that they don't realize the symptoms in time, or don't take them seriously," Zhou told the Global Times on Thursday.

Facing the current resurgence of the virus, Zhou said the public may need to get a booster shot. "But we should wait for the result of its phase III clinical trials for booster shot takers, to see how effective that will be to us," he added. 

Medical experts previously told the media that most of the cases in Nanjing had been vaccinated. However, the local authority revealed that seven of the cases in Nanjing had been classified as critical, which raised concerns among netizens over the efficacy of vaccines.

Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based expert, told the Global Times that it is still not clear whether these people had been vaccinated, and previous research had proven that vaccines were still the best method of preventing critical cases. 

Shao said that the existing vaccines are still effective for all the variants, while it's protective efficiency to prevent the infection of virus variants may be lower. But there is no big gap on the protection efficiency for severe cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus and its variants.

US Warships’ Taiwan Straits Transit, South China Sea Drill Futile to Contain China: Observers

By Liu Xuanzun

Jul 29, 2021 12:28 PM

Two fighter jets attached to a naval aviation brigade under the PLA Southern Theater Command prepare to take off in alongside formation during a 2-day continuous flight training exercise from February 24 to 25. Multi types of fighter jets participated in the flight training mission which included various offense and defense operations. Photo:China Military Online

A series of provocative moves by the US including sending a warship through the Taiwan Straits and holding a separate exercise in the South China Sea on Wednesday amid US officials' tours to Asia are an attempt to contain China not only politically but also militarily, but the tactic won't succeed because the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) holds unrivaled advantages on its doorsteps, Chinese analysts said on Thursday. 

The PLA Eastern Theater Command organized maritime and aerial forces, tracked and monitored the USS Benfold guided missile destroyer when it made a transit in the Taiwan Straits on Wednesday, Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson of the command, said in a statement released on Thursday.

It marked the seventh time a US warship has transited the Taiwan Straits this year, observers said.

Its repeated provocations show that the US is the biggest disruptor of peace and stability as well as creator of security risks in the Taiwan Straits, Shi said.

Troops of the PLA Eastern Theater Command stand ready to deal with all kinds of threats and provocations, and are determined, confident and capable of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the spokesperson said.

Also on Wednesday, the littoral combat ship USS Tulsa, the guided missile destroyer USS Kidd and an explosive disposal detachment formed a surface action group in the South China Sea, according to a statement the US 7th Fleet released on its website on the day.

This is the first time a US littoral combat ship and destroyer have joined to form a surface task group, supplemented by navy expeditionary forces, the 7th Fleet said, noting that this could expand capabilities that enable the fleet commander to execute a full spectrum of maritime and theater littoral warfare operations, on, above and below the water.

The US warships' movements came shortly after US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's visit to China on Monday and amid tours by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin to India and Southeast Asia since Tuesday.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday that the US is attempting to contain China's power in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in terms of military, as it is determined to maintain its military hegemony and political influence.

A UK aircraft carrier task force led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier entered the South China Sea earlier this week and was lurking around the region on Wednesday, according to the monitoring of the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a Beijing-based think tank.

The US warships are encouraging the UK vessels to provoke China in similar ways and gang up with the US in confronting China, Song said.

But despite the muscle-flexing of the US military and its allies, the PLA is the stronger force on China's doorsteps thanks to comprehensive factors including not only troops, but also the systematic combat capabilities and logistics support, Song said.

The PLA has been preparing for this, and the advantage is on the Chinese side, Song said.

China is holding multiple military exercises in sea areas including the Bohai Strait, the Yellow Sea and the South China Sea this week, according to navigational restriction notices released by the Maritime Safety Administration of China.

US Will be Disappointed Forcing SE Asian Countries to Get on its Anti-China Chariot

By Mu Lu

Jul 29, 2021 08:13 PM

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wrapped up his two-day visit to Hanoi on Thursday. He wrote several tweets without mentioning China. Although this doesn't mean Austin didn't talk about China in his meetings with Vietnam leaders, it still shows the US hasn't gotten what it desires from Hanoi. It is also a public show of Hanoi's opposition to taking sides.

The US seems to be obsessed with being two-faced. It has on one hand launched a comprehensive smear against China, using confrontational measures such as unreasonable sanctions to provoke China. On the other, it emphasized that it does not "seek confrontation" but is "committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China." 

Such hypocrisy cannot hide the most virulent geopolitical goals of the US' China policies. The Biden administration recently began to attach importance to Southeast Asia, after the US had snubbed the region for a long time. Clearly, the US is now seriously thinking about how to make full use of this "ideal tool" to contain China. 

Southeast Asian countries, especially Vietnam, due to their divergence with China over the South China Sea, are viewed by the US as a good leverage against China.

However, relations between China and Vietnam are generally sound. Hanoi views Beijing as an important partner, so in spite of Washington's lure, Hanoi will keep a distance from Washington. Vietnam is reluctant to provoke China. 

Every time the US talks with Southeast Asian countries, it tries to create waves in the South China Sea. Austin's visit is no exception. By doing so, the US aims to portray itself as the guardian of regional security and regional countries' interests. 

"The US says it does not want Southeast Asian countries to take sides, but it is asking other countries to side with it to jointly contain China. Vietnam is clear about such intent, and it knows better than any other regional countries the risk of being involved in the campaign," Li Kaisheng, a research fellow and deputy director at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Austin said in a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies on Tuesday when he was in Singapore, "Beijing's claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea has no basis in international law. That assertion treads on the sovereignty of states in the region."

Such a gesture is welcomed by Hanoi, but this won't make Vietnam to take sides. "Indeed, Vietnam will possibly cooperate with the US to support its claims over the South China Sea. But due to the two countries' various contradictions, Hanoi is unlikely to ride with Washington," Li said.

After Austin's visit to Vietnam, US Vice President Kamala Harris could also visit the country in August. This reflects the increase in weight of Southeast Asia in the US' strategy to contain China. The US knows it cannot realize its goals in a single visit. So a high density of visits also shows the US' strategy to gradually woo Southeast Asian countries. 

Nonetheless, the Biden administration's Southeast Asia policy fundamentally serves US strategic competition with China, rather than based on the specific conditions of the region. Such being the case, Washington will never really care about Southeast Asia. Regional countries including Vietnam are aware of this and won't blindly follow the US. 

If the US continues to stir up the South China Sea issue and add fuel to the fire, forcing Southeast Asia to get on its chariot against China, it may be disappointed no matter how hard the US manipulates.

Visit to Friendship Tower in DPRK


Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, on July 28 visited the Friendship Tower on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the great victory in the Fatherland Liberation War.

Accompanying him were Jo Yong Won, Ri Il Hwan, Jong Sang Hak, Ri Pyong Chol, Pak Jong Chon, Kwon Yong Jin and Ri Yong Gil.

Amid the playing of the wreath-laying music, a wreath in the name of the respected General Secretary Kim Jong Un was laid before the tower.

The ribbon of the wreath bore letters reading "We pay noble respect in the name of all the Korean people. On behalf of the Korean people, Kim Jong Un."

The respected General Secretary paid tributes to the martyrs of the Chinese People's Volunteers who joined the Korean people in the Fatherland Liberation War for repelling the imperialists' invasion and dedicated their valuable lives.

There was a march-past of the guard of honour of the Korean People's Army.

The General Secretary looked round the tower together with the officials who accompanied him.

He said that remaining fresh in the history of the great victory in the war and in the memory of our people are the true militant friendship and matchless sacrificing spirit displayed by officers and men of the CPV who fought shoulder to shoulder with the KPA during the harsh days of the war under the uplifted banner of resisting America and aiding Korea, safeguarding the home and defending the motherland.

The noble soul and exploits of the Chinese people who aided the sacred historic struggle of the Korean people at the cost of their blood when the DPRK was undergoing the harshest and most difficult trials will remain immortal along with prospering socialist Korea, he said, stressing that the DPRK-China friendship forged as kindred ties will be firmly carried forward generation after generation on the road for the common cause.

KCNA

2021-07-29

DPRK: A Woman Revolutionary Who Lives in the Memory of the Country

75 years have passed since the proclamation of the Law on Sex Equality. Over the period, a dramatic change has taken place in the position of the Korean women.

The career of Kim Rak Hui, a former honorary councillor of the Cabinet of the DPRK, eloquently speaks of this fact.

A plowwoman hero

Kim Rak Hui was born as the second daughter into a poor slash-and-burn farmer in a remote mountain village in Kaechon, South Phyongan Province when Korea was under the Japanese military rule. From the first day of her birth, she was fated to suffer from the poverty-stricken circumstances of her family and the shackles of feudalism.

After President Kim Il Sung liberated Korea (August 1945) by launching the anti-Japanese armed struggle, she could lead a genuine life as a human being. In the liberated country Korean women exercised legitimate, equal rights with men and farmers became the owners of land. She learned how to read and write the Korean alphabets and did farming diligently, enjoying the pleasure of life.

When the Fatherland Liberation War (June 1950-July 1953) was at its height, a national conference of farmer activists was held in Pyongyang in January Juche 41 (1952). The 19-year-old girl took part in the conference for her meritorious services performed in the campaign to increase wartime grain production.

At that time, women had to defend the rear in place of men fighting on the front. She took the initiative in the plowwoman movement, cultivating fields by camouflaging the back of ox with green leaves even in the teeth of heavy bombings of enemy planes. Her painstaking efforts brought about unprecedented bumper crops. She contributed 29 straw bags of rice to the country, a patriotic deed winning admiration from all people.

During the break of the conference, Kim Il Sung met the girl and spoke highly of her as she demonstrated the indomitable mettle of the Korean people who were unafraid of any hardships. He said with confidence that we could surely win in the war as such brave women like her were defending the rear. That year, she boosted crop yields by forming ox-sharing and labour-aid teams and donated once again lots of grains as contributions to the front.

From October 1953, she worked as the management board chairwoman of the then Ponghwa Agricultural Cooperative in Kaechon County and overfulfilled the state plan by producing lots of grains every year.

In the spring of 1954, the year after the ceasefire, she was selected as the one and only farmer and woman delegate of a DPRK’s delegation for a foreign tour.

In April 1958, she was awarded the title of Labour Hero at the age of 25.

A model woman revolutionary

Kim Rak Hui was appointed as the chairwoman of the Jagang Provincial Rural Economy Committee in the early 1970s when socialist construction went full steam ahead in the country.

With a view to lessening the burden of the President who kept visiting farms across the country to provide people with affluent life, come rain or shine, irrespective of holidays and days off, she devoted herself to increasing agricultural production of the country.

On day in the new century, Chairman Kim Jong Il spoke highly of her good track records and said to the officials: Though she is old now, she works as an advisory chairwoman of the provincial rural economy committee, faithfully upholding the leadership of the Party with a determination to die at her post.

From May Juche 94 (2005), she started to work as the chief secretary of the South Hwanghae Provincial Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. When he was reported that she was working hard to live up to the Party’s trust, the Chairman said she remained faithful in support of the Party’s leadership as one of women officials promoted by Kim Il Sung and that she was a model woman revolutionary of our era.

She was elected a deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly several times from 1957.

She was awarded Order of Kim Il Sung and Order of Kim Jong Il.

An everlasting life

Kim Rak Hui worked as a vice-premier of the Cabinet at the great age of 70. She worked hard with an awareness that she should do farming well to render services to solving the food problem for the people.

She worked devotedly to solve urgent problems for farming, sometimes taking manure in her hands to smell it and sometimes driving her car hundreds of miles overnight. Her image still remains etched in the memory of people.

The State took all measures for her to receive medical treatment in a hospital and work as an honorary councillor of the Cabinet.

One February day in Juche 102 (2013), she called her eldest daughter-in-law to wear a wrist watch bearing the august name of President Kim Il Sung, and said:

I earnestly ask you to bring up your children to be loyalists who remain firm in their support of the country like this gold wrist watch which stays unchanged in colour and keeps good time.

It was a legacy she left during her lifetime.

The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, in his opening address at the Seventh Congress of the WPK held in May Juche 105 (2016), called one by one the names of the revolutionary comrades who had passed away after rendering brilliant services to the country and the people during the period under review, and proposed to observe a minute’s silence in memory of them.

Among them was Kim Rak Hui of an ordinary peasant origin who had supported the Party with grain production throughout her life.

2021-07-29 

 DPRK V-Day Celebrated

The Korean people significantly celebrated the 68th anniversary of the victory in the great Fatherland Liberation War.

People from all walks of life visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the supreme sanctuary of Juche where the great leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are preserved in their lifetime appearance, and made a deep bow before the portraits of their smiling images in the plaza.

Service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and people visited the revolutionary sites associated with the history of the immortal leadership of Kim Il Sung who led the war to victory.

People and youth and students in different parts of the country visited the statues and cemeteries of martyrs, memorial towers and cemeteries of the fallen soldiers of the KPA, and paid tribute to the victors of the great years.

Colourful celebration performances were given in the capital city of Pyongyang and other localities.

The Mansudae Art Troupe gave a music and dance performance at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, and the National Symphony Orchestra, a concert at the Moranbong Theatre.

The National Folk Art Troupe gave a music and dance performance.

A revolutionary drama “Blood at an International Conference” was given at the National Theatre and a combined acrobatic performance, at the Pyongyang Circus Theatre.

Artistes of the Phibada Opera Troupe, National Theatrical Troupe, National Folk Art Troupe and National Acrobatic Troupe gave performances in front of the Pyongyang Grand Theatre and the Three-Revolution Exhibition House, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Members of women’s union art squads and mobile artistic motivational teams from several units gave outdoor performances in different places of the city.

Art groups of university students gave a performance “July 27, Eternal Victory” at the Central Youth Hall.

Members of provincial art troupes and artistic motivational teams gave performances in celebration of V-Day in different parts of the country.

Many working people and youth and students visited the families of war veterans to congratulate them.

2021-07-28

Receptions Given in Honour of Participants in 7th National Conference of War Veterans

Receptions were given in honour of the participants in the Seventh National Conference of War Veterans at the People’s Palace of Culture, Okryu Restaurant, Chongnyu Restaurant, Pyongyang Noodle House, etc., on July 27.

Present there were Choe Ryong Hae and Kim Tok Hun, members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and other senior officials of the Party and the government, together with the war veterans.

Speeches were made there.

Speakers said that the exploits performed by the victorious wartime generation are shining more brilliantly under the loving care of the respected General Secretary Kim Jong Un of the WPK who exerts efforts to respect, value and give prominence to the war veterans and bestow greater glory and happiness on them.

Noting that the war veterans’ long life in good health would be a great encouragement to the Party and the country, they stressed that the people would steadily carry forward the noble spirit and tradition of victory created by them.

The participants toasted the good health of the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, the great victory of our ideology and cause which the victorious wartime generation defended at the cost of their blood, and the war veterans’ long life in good health and their happiness.

2021-07-28

Performance Given for Participants in 7th National Conference of War Veterans

A performance for the participants in the 7th National Conference of War Veterans was given at the People’s Theatre on July 26.

Among the audience were Choe Ryong Hae and Kim Tok Hun, members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and other leading officials of the WPK and the DPRK government.

The performance was given by the artistes of the State Merited Chorus and the central art troupes.

The performance started with the national anthem of the DPRK and a prelude “Our Victory-Day July 27”. Put on the stage were wartime and other famous songs.

The entertainers sang in high praise of the immortal revolutionary exploits of the peerlessly great men who created the military miracles of the 20th century in the anti-imperialist revolutionary wars and glorify the ever-victorious tradition from one decade to the next and from one century to the next.

The performance reached its climax when the orchestral music and male chorus “Let Us Support Our Supreme Commander with Arms” and “Our Revolutionary Armed Forces Support Only the Marshal’s Leadership” were put on the stage, paying the highest tribute to the great Party Central Committee which has ushered in the dignified our-state-first era and built up the absolute power of socialist Korea to such an extent which no one can belittle it.

The performance ended with the finale “Festival of the Great War Victory”, “Honour to the Victors in the Great Years” and “Our Victory-Day July 27”.

2021-07-27

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Nigerian Court Frees El-Zakzaky, Wife - Says They Have No Case to Answer

Daily Trust

Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria

28 JULY 2021

Premium Times (Abuja)

By Abubakar Ahmadu Maishanu

The judge, Gideon Kurada, upheld the no-case submission filed by Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife.

A Kaduna State High Court has freed the embattled leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife Zinatu.

In a ruling that lasted over eight hours, on Wednesday, the judge, Gideon Kurada, upheld the no-case submission filed by Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife.

The ruling was delivered behind closed doors and journalists were not allowed inside the courtroom.

One of the cleric's lawyers told reporters that the court set Mr El-Zakzaky free.

The couple have been standing trial in the court for the past four years on an eight-count charge of culpable homicide, disruption of public peace and unlawful assembly among others levelled against them by the Kaduna State Government.

The government accused them of being responsible for the death of a soldier when soldiers massacred over 300 protesting Shiites in December 2015.

South Africa 'Appalled' By AU's Decision to Give Israel Observer Status

28 JULY 2021

SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

The South African government says it is "appalled" at the unjust and unwarranted decision of the African Union Commission (AUC) to grant Israel observer status in the African Union (AU).

"The African Union Commission has taken this decision unilaterally without consultations with its members. The decision to grant Israel observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land," the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) statement read on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the department said the AU "strenuously" objected to the deaths of Palestinians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.

"The decision by the AU Commission in this context is inexplicable."

According to reports, Israel on Thursday obtained observer status at the AU, which it has been demanding for years and seen as a diplomatic win for the Jewish State.

Israel, which has relations with 46 of the AU member States, enjoyed observer status with the Organisation of African Unity until 2002 when the organisation dissolved itself and became the AU.

The department believes that the unjust actions committed by Israel offend the letter and spirit of the Charter of the AU.

"The AU embodies the aspirations of all Africans and reflects their confidence that it can lead the continent through the practical expression of the goals of the Charter, especially on issues relating to self-determination and decolonisation."

South Africa said Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestine in complete defiance of its international obligations and relevant United Nations (UN) resolutions.

"It is therefore incomprehensible that the AU Commission chooses to reward Israel at a time when its oppression of Palestinians has been demonstrably more brutal."

Meanwhile, the South African government said it will ask the Chairperson of the Commission to provide a briefing to all member States on this decision which the department said hope will be discussed by the Executive Council and the Assembly of Heads of States and Government.

"South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status in the African Union. The African Union cannot be a party in any way to plans and actions that would see the ideal of Palestinian statehood reduced into balkanised entities devoid of true sovereignty, without territorial contiguity and with no economic viability," the department added.

Read the original article on SAnews.gov.za.

African Union Commission Chairperson Reiterates Two State Solution for Palestine and Israel in Meeting With Ambassador of the State of Israel to Ethiopia

Peter Luhanga/GroundUp

South African demonstrators march to Parliament to protest against Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip during May, 2021.

22 JULY 2021

African Union (Addis Ababa)

PRESS RELEASE

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat today received credentials from H.E. Aleli Admasu, Ambassador of the State of Israel to Ethiopia, Burundi & Chad during which the long-standing issue of the Palestine-Israeli conflict was also discussed.

The Chairperson stated that the conflict between the State of Palestine and Israel has been a cause of great concern for over seventy years with various regional and international actors having participated in the search for a peace between the two nations; and noted that a lasting solution was required to ensure the co-existence of both nations and to allow their people to live in a state of peace and stability. He emphasised that the path towards long lasting peace and stability requires that the peace process and the solutions sought must not only be acceptable, but must guarantee the rights of all parties

The Chairperson reiterated that in the almost sixty-year history of Africa's continental organisation, from its formation as the Organization of African Unity and re-launch as the African Union, the Union has been very clear on it position that in the issue of Palestine and Israel, a Two-State Solution is necessary for a peaceful co-existence.

On his part the, Ambassador Admasu welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Chairperson of the AU Commission as it marked the beginning of a new phase in building Israel's relationship with the region at a continental level. He noted that whereas Israel has bilateral relationships with several African countries, the engagement with African states through the African Union was key towards building the multilateralism that is required for promoting continental initiatives earmarked under Africa's Agenda 2063. He commended the African Union for the role it plays in promoting Africa's peace and security agenda and advocating for conflicting parties to engage in discussions and partnerships that will promote a stable environment free from conflict.

Ambassador Admasu extended an invitation from the State of Israel to the Chairperson of the AUC to visit the country noting that the State of Israel would welcome the opportunity host a meeting between the Chairperson and its leaders.

Botswana Sends Troops to Help Mozambique Fight Insurgency

By ANDREW MELDRUM and TOM BOWKER

July 26, 2021

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Botswana sent military troops to Mozambique on Monday, becoming the first country of the 16-nation Southern African Development Community to dispatch soldiers to help battle an Islamic extremist insurgency in northern Cabo Delgado province.

Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, said the troops would work with Mozambique’s armed forces and soldiers sent by other members of the regional bloc, known as SADC, to put down the insurgency in which more than 3,000 people have died since 2017..

Botswana’s troops will join 1,000 soldiers who arrived in Mozambique earlier this month from Rwanda, which is not an SADC member. The Rwandan troops reported to already be in action; local news site Carta de Moçambique said they had killed 30 insurgents last week.

The SADC mission in Mozambique will be led by South African Maj. Gen. Xolani Mankayi, who is in Mozambique as part of an advance deployment.

More troops are expected from other SADC member countries, including Tanzania and Angola, local newssheet Mediafax reported Monday, citing Mozambique’s defense ministry.

The regional body last month approved a $12 million budget for the deployment of the Standby Force Mission for Mozambique. Earlier this year, military experts from the group recommended that the SADC send about 3,000 soldiers with arms, helicopters, airplanes, and naval ships.

The World Food Program has warned of a growing hunger crisis, saying nearly 1 million people need food aid as a result of the conflict.

The insurgency in northern Mozambique started in Cabo Delgado province in 2017 and has grown rapidly in the past year. The rebels have held the port of Mocimboa da Praia for nearly a year and have repeatedly attacked the strategic center of Palma, forcing the French energy firm Total to suspend its $20 billion liquified natural gas project there.

The United States sent 12 special forces officers to help train Mozambique’s military. The European Union has approved sending a military training mission to build on a program provided by Portugal, according to a recent report by Cabo Ligado, which reports on the conflict with the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project.

A private military contractor, Dyck Advisory Group, provided helicopter air support to Mozambique’s police, but its contract expired at the start of April and was not renewed.

___

Bowker reported from Belgrade, Serbia.

UN Says Its Food Aid Runs Out This Week in Ethiopia’s Tigray

July 27, 2021

A man gestures as youth joining the Defense Forces gather, at Meskel Square, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tuesday, July 27 2021. A repatriation program is underway for young people from Ethiopia who have decided to join the Defense Forces. (AP Photo)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The head of the United Nations World Food Program says the agency will “run out of food” in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region on Friday, while hundreds of thousands of people there face the world’s worst famine crisis in a decade.

Some 170 trucks with food and other supplies are “stuck” in the neighboring Afar region and “must be allowed to move NOW,” David Beasley tweeted on Tuesday, noting that 100 such trucks are needed per day in Tigray. “People are starving.”

International pressure is again rising on Ethiopia’s government to allow badly needed food and other supplies into Tigray, where aid hasn’t reached some communities since the war started in November between Ethiopia’s military and Tigray forces. The Associated Press has reported that scores of people have begun to starve to death.

Shortly after the WFP chief’s statement, Ethiopia’s government blamed the aid delivery problem on Tigray forces’ “provocations” in the Afar region, which the U.N. says has the only remaining road route into Tigray. But a WFP convoy trying to use that route was attacked on July 18, and insecurity remains a challenge.

Ethiopia’s government in June declared a unilateral cease-fire, saying it was in part on humanitarian grounds, while its forces retreated from Tigray and Tigray forces retook the regional capital and many other areas. Calling the cease-fire a “sick joke,” the Tigray forces vowed to secure the region and chase “enemies” over its borders if needed.

“Our forces are advancing in every direction and no one is going to stop them, not even rain,” spokesman Getachew Reda with the Tigray forces tweeted on Tuesday.

Since the cease-fire, Ethiopia’s government has prepared for a renewed offensive in Tigray, with public rallies and recruiting drives. Some 3,000 youths gathered on Tuesday in the capital, Addis Ababa, to enlist in the military and denounce Tigray’s former ruling party, which once dominated Ethiopia’s government but this year was declared a terrorist group.

“Our recruits shall bury the enemy and make sure Ethiopia’s sovereignty is respected,” Defense Minister Kenea Yadeta said.

Tigray’s civilians are caught in the middle, largely cut off from the outside world as communications links in the region remain down and supplies run low. Thousands have been killed in the conflict, and even outside the region witnesses say thousands have been detained because of their ethnicity.

Tunisia Islamist Party Counters President Kais Saied

By BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA and ELAINE GANLEY

July 27, 2021

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The leader of Tunisia’s Islamist party and speaker of parliament said Tuesday that his party is working to form a “national front” to counter President Kais Saied’s decision to suspend the legislature, fire top government officials and take control of the fragile democracy amid the country’s multi-layered crisis.

Ennahdha party head Rachid Ghannouchi told The Associated Press in a video call that the goal is to pressure the president “to demand the return to a democratic system.”

Ghannouchi claimed that groups that attacked his party’s offices in several cities during nationwide demonstrations leading up to the president’s actions Sunday night organized online and were the same that later celebrated the president’s actions in the streets of Tunis, the capital.

The groups “are closer to anarchist groups,” and “attribute themselves” to the president, he alleged, rejecting the suggestion that they may be citizens expressing discontent with the nation’s largest party.

Widespread concern in Tunisia and abroad has been voiced since the series of decisions by Saied to halt political life and most government action with the sudden firing of the prime minister, the defense and justice ministers and the freezing of parliament.

Ghannouchi and others were locked out of parliament on Monday.

More than a half-dozen civil organizations, including the powerful Tunisian General Labor Union, issued a joint statement Tuesday asking Saied for a road map of fixes to the country’s problems. They also warned against “any illegitimate and unjustified extension of the suspension of the activities of state institutions,” and said a one-month deadline in the Tunisian Constitution must be respected.

The president invoked a constitutional article that allows him to assume executive power in cases of “imminent danger threatening the institutions of the nation and the independence of the country and hindering the regular functioning of the public powers.”

Saied was formerly a constitutional law professor and has stressed that he wasn’t acting outside the constitution.

Ghannouchi reiterated his statement that the moves amount to a coup, “and we have called on the president to reverse these announcements and return to the constitutional democratic order of the state.”

In a pressure tactic, the Ennahdha leader said his party and other parliamentary blocs are organizing.

“We are moving toward escalating pressure on the president, of course peacefully … to demand the return to a democratic system and respecting the will of the Tunisian people,” he said. Among pressure tactics, he cited plans for protests and sit-ins.

“We are seeking to work, not as separate parties, but as a national front building the broadest possible front in order to eventually convince the president to submit to the will of the people and return to the democratic order,” Ghannouchi said.

He added that parliamentary work would continue despite the presidential freeze via digital methods, a means formally approved earlier because of the pandemic.

Saied’s decisions to at least temporarily centralize decision-making and most state functions comes amid a crescendo of crises in Tunisia, battling coronavirus infections that are ravaging the nation and growing social and economic woes.

Tunisia, which ignited the Arab Spring in 2011 when protests led to the overthrow of its longtime autocratic leader, is often regarded as the only success story of those uprisings. But democracy didn’t bring prosperity. Tunisia’s economy was already flailing before the pandemic hit, with 18% unemployment, and young people demanding jobs and an end to police brutality protested in large numbers earlier this year.

These crises need to be addressed, “rather than seek to create other problems or to create ideological conflicts,” Ghannouchi said, adding that everyone must work to prevent Tunisia “from being dragged into violence.”

He conceded that Ennahdha, which has been accused of focusing on its internal concerns instead of managing the coronavirus, “needs to review itself, as do other parties.”

Ennahdha, with its high political profile, is a perfect target to blame for Tunisia’s economic and other problems, Ghannouchi maintained.

“And they succeeded at some of their objectives in inciting hatred against Ennahda,” he said.

The Islamist leader hastened to add, “However, it is through elections the popularity of parties is measured,” and Ennahdha remains the largest.

But all parties “must come together … to save Tunisia and not this or that party,” Ghannouchi said.

The 80-year-old Ghannouchi, a co-founder of Ennahdha, also said that he wouldn’t seek a new term as its president at a party congress later this year.

___

Elaine Ganley reported from Paris.

Tunisia Opens Corruption Probes of Leading Islamist Party

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2019 file photo, Islamist party leader and parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi speaks during a meeting in Tunis, Tunisia. Rached Ghannouchi said on Tuesday July 27, 2021, that his party is working to form a "national front" to counter President Kais Saied's decision to suspend the legislature, fire top government officials and take control of the fragile democracy amid the country's multi-layered crisis. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi, File)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian prosecutors have opened investigations into alleged foreign campaign funding and anonymous donations to Islamist movement Ennahdha and two other political parties, according to local media.

Ennahdha is the dominant party in parliament, whose activities were suspended this week by President Kais Saied. Tunisia’s leader also fired the prime minister and key Cabinet members, saying it was necessary to stabilize a country in economic and health crisis. But Ennahdha and other critics accused him of overstepping his power and threatening Tunisia’s young democracy.

The spokesperson for the financial prosecutor’s office, Mohsen Daly, said Wednesday on Mosaique FM radio that the investigations were opened in mid-July.

He also announced investigations were opened earlier this month into the country’s national anti-corruption agency — suspected itself of corruption — and into Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission created to confront abuses during Tunisia’s decades of autocratic rule.

Calm prevailed in Tunis, the capital, four days after nationwide protests that ended with the president’s decision to centralize power in his hands “until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state.” The following day, on Monday, security forces raided the Tunis offices of Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite news network and shut it down.

The Cairo bureau chief for the New York Times tweeted Wednesday that she and her team reporting in Tunis were detained for two hours by police. “We’re continuing to report in Tunis,” Vivian Yee tweeted. She provided no details.

Ennahdha’s leader, who is the speaker of parliament, said Tuesday that his party is a perfect target to blame for Tunisia’s crescendo of economic, health and other problems. Coronavirus infections are notably ravaging the country, aggravating public anger.

Rachid Ghannouchi told The Associated Press that his party is working to form a “national front” to counter Saied’s decision to suspend the legislature, to pressure the president “to demand the return to a democratic system.”

He conceded that Ennahdha, which has been accused of focusing on its internal concerns instead of managing the coronavirus, “needs to review itself, as do other parties.”

Tunisia, which ignited the Arab Spring a decade ago when protests led to the overthrow of its longtime autocratic leader, is often regarded as the only success story of those uprisings. But democracy didn’t bring prosperity.

Reactions in Tunis were mixed to Saied’s decisions, with some hoping they bring stability and others worried he seized too much power.

Omar Oudherni, retired army brigadier and security expert, said the president’s moves, coming after a day of nationwide protests, “put an end to the development of anger ... This decision calmed the situation and protected the state and citizens, and even the ruling political parties, from the people’s wrath.”

He played down concerns of a return to authoritarianism.

“The Tunisian people will not be silent on any tyrant,” and will resist if the president goes too far, he said. “Doing what is good will receive support, and if he wants dictatorship, the people will sweep it up as they swept others.”

In Breakthrough, Tanzania Kicks off COVID-19 Vaccinations

By CARA ANNA

A nurse vaccinates Tanzaian President Samia Suluhu Hassan in Dodoma, Tanzania, Wednesday, July 28 2021. In a major breakthrough for one of the world's last countries to embrace COVID-19 vaccines, Tanzania's president has kicked off her nation's vaccination campaign by publicly receiving a dose and urging others to do the same. (AP Photo/Domasa Sylivester)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — In a major breakthrough for one of the world’s last countries to embrace COVID-19 vaccines, Tanzania’s president kicked off its vaccination campaign Wednesday by publicly receiving a dose and urging others to do the same. But she immediately met some hesitation in one of Africa’s most populous nations.

The East African country’s government under former President John Magufuli had long worried health officials by denying the pandemic. Magufuli, who insisted the coronavirus could be defeated with prayer, died in March. The presidency went to his deputy, Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has since changed Tanzania’s course on COVID-19.

Hassan, who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, expressed confidence in the safety of vaccines and said the country of more than 58 million people will pursue more. The United States on Saturday announced the delivery of more than 1 million doses via the COVAX global initiative aimed at supplying low- and middle-income countries.

Now the Tanzanian government’s challenge is to reverse the skepticism the previous administration promoted about COVID-19 vaccines. “Why don’t we consider our traditional solutions? Why do we have to use foreign medicine? Is there something that is hidden here?” asked one resident of commercial capital Dar es Salaam, Kelvin Mmari, who said Wednesday he’s not willing to be vaccinated.

Tanzania’s president stressed that the vaccine is voluntary, and other citizens welcomed the arrival of doses. “The action by the president to take a new direction in the battle against the coronavirus has brought relief to Tanzanians,” said Dar es Salaam resident Hawa Bihoga.

Tanzania went well over a year without updating its number of confirmed virus cases but has now resumed reporting the data to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which showed 858 cases in the country as of Wednesday.

Critics of Tanzania’s past stance on COVID-19, however, have long warned that many more people have been infected.

The country is trying to catch up as many parts of the African continent face a devastating resurgence of infections. “We are making efforts to ensure that we import more vaccines to meet the demand,” Hassan said.

Tanzania’s president has even pledged to invest in vaccine manufacturing, according to the Africa CDC; the agency’s director, John Nkengasong, met with Hassan on Tuesday. African countries, hit hard by so-called vaccine nationalism as rich nations prioritize doses for their own citizens, are embracing the need to have more control over vaccine production.

Just two African countries still have yet to start COVID-19 vaccinations, Burundi and Eritrea. Burundi, whose late President Pierre Nkurunziza also had been criticized for downplaying the pandemic, has said vaccines aren’t needed yet. And Eritrea has long been criticized by human rights groups as one of the world’s most closed-off, repressive countries.

EXPLAINER: Why Masks Are Again Advised for Everyone Indoors

By MIKE STOBBE

FILE - A student wears a face mask while doing work at his desk at the Post Road Elementary School, in White Plains, N.Y., in this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, file photo. U.S. health officials say the highly contagious delta version of the coronavirus is behind changes to mask guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced that fully vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors if they live in areas where the virus is surging. CDC officials said new information about the spread of the delta variant forced them to reverse course. The agency also said teachers and students everywhere should go back to wearing masks in schools. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, FIle)

NEW YORK (AP) — Wait, we’re supposed to wear masks again? Even if we are vaccinated?

For a large part of the U.S., that’s the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC this week revisited and revised its guidance for wearing masks indoors to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The change comes two months after the agency eased its mask advice, declaring that fully vaccinated people no longer had to cover up at indoor public places. Since then, the agency also said vaccinated adults and teens no longer needed to wear them at summer camps and schools.

A look at the latest developments:

WHAT CHANGED?

CDC officials announced that people who are fully vaccinated should resume wearing masks indoors if they live in areas where the virus is surging — which is most of the country, or more than 60% of U.S. counties. Masks generally aren’t needed outdoors.

The agency also said everyone — teachers and students — should go back to wearing masks in schools, whether the virus is surging in your community or not.

The CDC wasn’t the first to call for the return of masks. In recent weeks, a number of cities and towns in hot spots have brought back indoor mask rules. The list includes municipalities ranging in size from Los Angeles to Provincetown, Massachusetts. More places, as well as businesses, took steps to join the list after Tuesday’s CDC announcement, including Kansas City and the state of Nevada.

WHY THE CHANGE?

It’s all because of the highly contagious delta version of the virus, the CDC said. That variant is driving surges of COVID-19 in much of the country and now accounts for more than 80% of infections. CDC officials said new information about its spread forced them to reverse course.

The vast majority of new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. Rarely, some vaccinated people do end up getting infected as well, although the vaccine cushions the blow and generally protects them from severe illness.

Previously, vaccinated people with “breakthrough infections” had low levels of virus and were unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. But new data shows that isn’t the case with the delta variant. Vaccinated people “have the potential to spread that virus to others,” she said.

WHAT DIDN’T CHANGE?

The guidance for anyone who hadn’t gotten a COVID-19 vaccine stays the same: Masks are recommended indoors, pretty much everywhere.

Everyone — regardless of vaccination or location — should wear a mask while at airports or train stations, or while riding buses, trains or other public transportation.

Hospitals, stores and businesses may require masks, too.

The CDC did not explicitly change its guidance for summer camps, mostly because the season is ending and schools are opening soon.

WHERE ARE THE HOT SPOTS?

The new guidance is for areas with substantial or high virus spread, as shown on a CDC map. That means at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week.

New case rates are particularly high in the South and Southwest, according to the CDC tracker. In Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida, every county exceeds the CDC benchmark. And rates are high in all but a few counties in Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri.

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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.