Monday, July 26, 2021

MOZAMBIQUE WELCOMES FOREIGN SOLDIERS TO FIGHT INSURGENCY

The 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreed late last month to send troops to Mozambique's insurgent-hit Cabo Delgado province. That military intervention was formalised a week after east African nation Rwanda announced it was starting to deploy 1,000 troops to the area. In a rare comment on the deployment, Nyusi who long resisted foreign intervention, thanked SADC and Rwanda for the mobilisation.

Rwandan soldiers from Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) and Rwandan policemen prepare to board a "Rwandair" plane for a military mission to Mozambique at Kanombe Airport, Kigali, Rwanda on 10 July 2021. Picture: AFP

AFP |

MAPUTO - Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi on Sunday expressed his gratitude to African countries sending troops to help fight insurgents in the north of the country. Nyusi lauded soldiers already sent by Rwanda as regional allies prepared to deploy their own forces.

The 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreed late last month to send troops to Mozambique's insurgent-hit Cabo Delgado province. That military intervention was formalised a week after east African nation Rwanda announced it was starting to deploy 1,000 troops to the area.

In a rare comment on the deployment, Nyusi who long resisted foreign intervention, thanked SADC and Rwanda for the mobilisation.

"The mandate of foreign forces is to help Mozambican forces restore peace and stability," Nyusi said in an address to the nation.

"We should not fear the presence of foreign forces in our country," he added. "We should be afraid of being alone in fighting terrorism."

Soldiers will support Mozambique's ongoing efforts to counter Islamic State-linked militants that have been terrorising its gas-rich north since 2017. Their attacks escalated last year and culminated on March 24 with coordinated raids on the port town of Palma in which dozens of people were killed, some decapitated, and thousands displaced.

The recent violence offset major gas exploration projects and raised fears it could spread to neighbouring countries placing pressure on Nyusi to accept foreign boots.

"Rwandan troops have come to save lives in a province where we have people being killed and beheaded every day," the president said. "We couldn't deny any available assistance."

The timing and size of the SADC deployment, as well as the number of soldiers sent by each member, is not yet known. The bloc sent four officers earlier this month to study the situation and work out logistics.

Botswana announced earlier on Sunday that its President Mokgweetsi Masisi would be bidding farewell to defence forces leaving for Mozambique on Monday, without providing further detail.

The violence in Cabo Delgado has driven around 826,000 people from their homes and claimed more than 2,000 lives, according to Nyusi.

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POLICE SHUT AL JAZEERA TV'S TUNIS OFFICE

"Around 15 policemen, some in uniform others in civilian clothes, entered our offices and asked us to leave," Al Jazeera director in Tunis Lotfi Hajji told AFP.

FILE: The move came a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended parliament, following a day of street protests against the government's handling of the COVID pandemic. Picture: Facebook.

AFP 

TUNIS - Tunisian police on Monday closed the office of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera television in the capital Tunis, its bureau chief said, amid political turmoil in the North African country.

"Around 15 policemen, some in uniform others in civilian clothes, entered our offices and asked us to leave," Al Jazeera director in Tunis Lotfi Hajji told AFP.

He said the law enforcement officers gave no reason for the actions, but confiscated the keys to the premises and forced all staff to leave.

The move came a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended parliament, following a day of street protests against the government's handling of the COVID pandemic.

Hajji said the police told Al Jazeera staff "we are following orders".

"What is happening is very dangerous, it is proof that freedom of the press is threatened. Today it is Al Jazeera, another day another media," Hajji said.

AFP contacted the interior minister for further details but no immediate explanations were given for the closure of the outlet's office.

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Tunisia President Orders Nighttime Curfew, Says Country Passing Through ‘Historic’ Stage

Monday, 26 July 2021 11:15 PM 

Picture taken on July 25, 2021 shows Tunisian President Kais Saied leading a security meeting in the capital Tunis. (Photo by AP)

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied imposes a nighttime curfew across the country to prevent unrest and violence as a result of his surprise earlier decisions concerning the country’s political system. 

Speaking on Monday, Saied the people were to abide by the measure from 07:00 p.m. until 06:00 a.m. for a month. Emergency medical staffers and those working night shifts were exempted from the order.

The president also outlawed gatherings of more than three people at a time on the country’s public roads and at its squares.

Meeting with labor unions, he urged Tunisians to remain calm and not pour onto the streets.

Tunisian President Kais Saied ousts the country’s prime minister and suspended parliament following a day of protests against the ruling Ennahda Party.

Tunisia was going through tough and “historical” stages, he said, adding that he had decided to assume control of the country’s affairs for, what he called, the good of its own people.

Earlier, Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended the country’s parliament, besides taking away the legislators’ parliamentary immunity.

He said he would be running the country’s executive affairs in cooperation with a premier of his own choosing.

Explaining his decisions, the president said he had asked the legislative body time and again to replace Mechichi, but they would constantly obstruct the move.

Saied said his patience with the parliament’s dilatory tactics had run out.

The president’s choices have been met with mixed reactions across the country, both being welcomed with cheerful and celebrating rallies and angry protests.

Reports, meanwhile, showed that Mechichi had submitted to Saied’s demand and surrendered his post. 

US Envoy for Iran Admits Trump’s Maximum Pressure Campaign ‘Failed Miserably’

Monday, 26 July 2021 10:58 AM 

Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, was part of the US negotiating team that worked out the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015. (Photo by AFP)

The US special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, has admitted that the maximum pressure campaign pushed by the former president Donald Trump's administration against the Islamic Republic “failed miserably” and “hurt US interests”.

Speaking on a television show hosted by MSNBC journalist Mehdi Hasan, Malley said Iran’s nuclear program accelerated only after the former US president launched his maximum pressure campaign.

Malley is Biden’s point man for Iran, tasked with reviving the 2015 nuclear accord that Trump unilaterally abandoned in 2018. He was part of the US negotiating team that worked out the deal in 2015.

Asked whether the US should be the first to extend an olive branch and rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as Iran nuclear deal, the envoy moved the goalposts quickly.

“We said very clearly we are prepared to come back into the deal if they’re prepared to do their part,” Malley said, adding that the US “will lift sanctions” if Iran returns to full compliance with its nuclear obligations under the JCPOA.

Iran says the policies it has been pursuing on the 2015 nuclear agreement with major world powers are among the “fundamental positions” of the Islamic establishment and thus will not undergo any change when the new administration takes over.

Malley, who had been in Vienna as Iran and P4+1 countries engaged in marathon negotiations to resurrect the dying deal, said “ideas” were put on the table about removing sanctions that Trump had imposed on Iran “in violation of the deal”.

He also slammed the Trump administration’s decision to assassinate Iran’s top anti-terror commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying it “made America less safe”.

The show host referred to Trump's recent remarks that he ordered the assassination because he was “under pressure” from his party senators before his impeachment trial.

Iran says the US’s assassination of General Soleimani clearly exemplifies “state terrorism,” cautioning the UN against any understatement.

He also cited a report that Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, had warned Trump not to strike the top Iranian commander, saying it would spark war.

“Don’t the Iranian government and the Iranian people have a right to be outraged by these revelations that the US killed Iran’s top general for domestic political purposes, that the US top general had to prevent the US President from starting a war with Iran for nakedly political reasons,” Mehdi asked.

Gen. Mark Milley reportedly warned Trump not to strike Iran, “You’re gonna have a f*****g war”. Should Iranians be outraged over Trump’s actions? @USEnvoyIran tells @MehdiRHasan “The verdict is clear, it just invited more trouble rather than de-escalating tensions.” 

Milley, pushed on the back foot, agreed that the Trump administration’s move “invited more trouble rather than de-escalating tensions”

“The American people have a right to be outraged with the fact that a policy that was designed to keep America safe, by killing Qassem Soleimani, by imposing a maximum pressure campaign,” the envoy said in his response. “Three years on, the verdict is clear, America is less safe because Iran has a more expansive nuclear program and because it accelerated and intensified its regional activities.”

Gen. Soleimani, the celebrated anti-Daesh commander, was assassinated in a US airstrike near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020. It led to heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Vienna talks in stalemate

In an editorial published on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal said Iran’s latest demand is that the US agree to a clause that makes American withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal contingent on the United Nations' approval, since it was the US that unilaterally withdrew from the deal.

The newspaper, doing Washington's bidding, termed the clause “unconstitutional”, asserting that the US president “can’t stop a future Congress or President from changing policy, especially when the nuclear agreement was never submitted to the Senate for ratification as a treaty.”

Iran’s UN envoy says a US guarantee that it will never unilaterally the 2015 nuclear deal again is crucial to a successful conclusion of the ongoing talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the agreement.

It further stated that President Biden, like his former boss Barack Obama, would not submit the deal for a Senate vote “because he knows it would be unlikely to get a simple majority, much less the two-thirds needed to ratify a treaty.”

“Giving the UN more sway than Congress over US foreign policy would be a gross abdication of the President’s oath of office,” the editorial noted.

The ongoing talks in Vienna have been temporarily shelved due to the transition of power in Tehran, but Iran has made it emphatically clear that it is the US that must make the first move.

Iranian officials have repeatedly called on their US counterparts to “take tough decisions” to revive the deal, but the Biden administration has so far refused to budge from its stand.

Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Protest to Illegal Detention

Tuesday, 27 July 2021 2:03 AM

Mona Kandil Press TV, Ramallah

Ten months ago Israeli forces arrested Palestinian football player Guevara al-Namoura and held him behind bars without charge or trial under what’s known as administrative detention deemed illegal based on international law.

Three months later his pregnant wife gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Julia.

This month his administrative detention order was supposed to end, however the Israeli regime extended his illegal detention.

Almost two weeks ago Guevara started an open ended hunger strike protesting his illegal detention, and hoping to see and cuddle his seven-month old Julia.

Guewara is not alone. At least 14 other Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are on hunger strike in protest of their unfair administrative detention without charge or trial.

The Prisoners’ Affairs Commission revealed that Israeli prison authorities maltreat the hunger-striking detainees, and had moved them to solitary confinement to force them end their protest.

Israel uses the so called administrative detention policy to arrest and hold Palestinians without filing formal charges.

Tel Aviv insists that they were arrested on secret reports which are inaccessible to prisoners and their lawyers. Human rights groups say Israel should either prosecute those prisoners or release them, especially that the detention orders can be renewed indefinitely and the detainees could even stay in prison up to 10 years.

Israel holds some 5000 Palestinians in its jails including hundreds who are held behinds bars without any charge or trial.

For the Palestinian prisoners, the hunger strike is an attempt to expose Israel’s illegal policy of administrative detention that must come to an end. Israel, however, continues to be intransigent in dealing with the hunger strikers’ legal demands to make sure that no more prisoners would follow the same path in the future. 

Hamas Will Use Different Means to Mount Pressure on Israel if Gaza Siege Continues: Official

Monday, 26 July 2021 2:28 PM

Hussam Badran, a member of the Hamas political bureau

A senior member of Hamas has warned that the Palestinian resistance movement is ready to use various means and different mechanisms to mount pressure on Israel if the occupying regime persists in obstructing negotiations to stabilize the ceasefire and lift the siege on the Gaza strip.

Hussam Badran, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said in remarks published on the movement’s website on Monday that the change of Israeli cabinets does not concern Hamas and the Gaza-based resistance would react to any sort of disruption in solidifying the ceasefire in the coastal enclave.

“If we feel that there is some kind of [Israeli] reluctance and disruption regarding the negotiations to firm up the ceasefire and lift the siege on Gaza, we and other factions in Gaza will have to use different means to pressure the occupation,” Badran said.

The Hamas official attributed the stalemate in truce negotiations to the new Israeli cabinet “which suffers from insufficient political experience and its wide internal differences,” and underlined that, “Hamas will do everything necessary for the Palestinian people to live in freedom and dignity.”

Pointing to efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip, Badran said the past experience has shown that a number of countries do not follow through on their commitments to help the Palestinians.

“The experience of the Gaza Strip in previous acts of aggression confirms that a number of countries do not abide by their commitments to the reconstruction of Gaza,” he said, stressing that the new Israeli cabinet is hampering the reconstruction process.

“Hamas will not allow any country to use its donation to rebuild the Gaza Strip in order to put pressure on the Palestinian resistance groups,” Badran added.

Badran also noted that Hamas has strengthened its political position in the Arab world as the resistance movement’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, visited several Arab countries and had plans to travel to other countries in the future.

In their latest aggression on Sunday night, Israeli warplanes bombed several locations across the Gaza Strip in violation of a ceasefire that ended a fatal assault on the blockaded enclave in May.

Hamas described the Israeli bombing of Gaza as “a failed attempt to show off the regime's impotent military power and to restore the image of its army totally tarnished by the battle of al-Quds Sword”.

Israeli warplanes conduct airstrikes on several positions across the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Israeli regime started a 12-day war against the already Tel Aviv-blockaded Gaza Strip on May 10. As a result of the brutal aggression, more than 250 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including 66 children, with more than 1,900 people wounded.

Gaza’s resistance groups, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in particular, responded to the aggression on the same day that it started targeting the enclave.

Throughout the offensive, the groups fired more than 4,000 rockets towards Israel. The projectiles swept the entire expanse of the territories, many flying as far as Tel Aviv, the holy occupied city of al-Quds, and even the northern-lying cities of Haifa and Nazareth.

The Palestinian rockets also killed 12 in the occupied territories.

The Israeli regime finally gave in to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on May 21, incapable of stopping the resistance’s rocket avalanche.

Businessman Najib Mikati Secures Majority Vote of Lebanon Parliament Becomes New Prime Minister-designate

Monday, 26 July 2021 5:43 PM

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (L) meets with leading businessman Najib Mikati at the presidential palace in Baabda, Beirut, Lebanon, on July 26, 2021.

Lebanon's businessman Najib Mikati has secured enough votes in parliamentary consultations to be nominated as the country's new prime minister-designate, ending a months-long political deadlock over the matter.

According to media reports, Mikati secured 73 votes out of 118 members of the parliament during consultations that followed his meeting with President Michel Aoun on Monday.

After security the Lebanese parliament’s vote, Mikati said he will work to form a new government and implement a plan to save the country from its crippling financial crisis.

"I don't have a magic wand and can't perform miracles... but I have studied the situation for a while and have international guarantees," Mikati added.

Earlier on Monday, Mikati held a brief meeting with Aoun more than a week after former premier-designate, Saad Hariri, stepped down as a result of a nine-month political deadlock.

Mikati did not make any remarks after the meeting, which was considered as the formal beginning of consultations to choose the new prime minister-designate. He was already expected to receive the support of a majority of parliamentarians and start forming a desperately-needed government.

Mikati received endorsements from three former Lebanese prime ministers, namely Hariri, Fuad Siniora, and Tammam Salam, a day earlier, when the four held a meeting in capital Beirut, ahead of Monday’s scheduled selection process.

After meeting Aoun, Hariri expressed hope that Mikati would be chosen and succeed in forming a cabinet. “The country has a chance today,” Hariri said.

Three former Lebanese prime ministers have endorsed Najib Mikati’s bid to become prime minister.

Mikati also gained the endorsement of Speaker Nabih Berri, the Progressive Socialist Party, and the Amal Movement, with the Hezbollah movement endorsing him as well.

“Today, [there are] ... signs that hint at the possibility of forming a government ... that's why we named Mikati, to give an extra boost to facilitate forming a government," Muhammad Raad, the leader of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, told reporters ahead of the parliamentary consultations.

The new prime minister-designate will need to agree with Aoun on the composition of any new government amid growing problems faced by the country, including a crippling financial crisis and severe shortages of basic goods such as medicine and fuel.

Back in May, 51-year-old Hariri, who is a veteran Sunni Muslim politician, said that he would not form a government that simply complies with the wishes of the president, who is a Maronite Christian, nor any other political faction.

Hariri was tasked with forming a government for a fourth time in October 2020. That was one year after he resigned as prime minister amid mass protests.

A caretaker administration by Hassan Diab has run the small country for nearly a year, while the currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts.

Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati is reportedly set to be designated to form a new government in crisis-ridden Lebanon next week.

Under Lebanon's sectarian system, the premier must be a Sunni Muslim. Aoun is required to choose the candidate with the greatest support from legislators.

The Mediterranean country plunged into a political vacuum in August 2020, when the previous administration, led by then Prime Minister Hassan Diab, resigned following a devastating explosion at the port in Beirut that destroyed swathes of the capital and left more than 200 people dead.

The country’s currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value since fall 2019 and more than half of the population has been rendered jobless as businesses have shut down.

Half of the population is now living below the poverty line as prices are skyrocketing and the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

US Brings Nothing but Poverty, Backwardness to Nations Across Globe: IRGC Chief Commander

Monday, 26 July 2021 1:50 PM 

Chief commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Hossein Salami (Photo by Tasnim News Agency)

The chief commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) says the United States has brought nothing to various nations across the globe, but poverty and backwardness and pillage of their riches.

“America has brought nothing to nations of the world but poverty and backwardness and plundering of their wealth,” Major General Hossein Salami said while addressing a ceremony held in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah on Monday.

“The US has no credit in the eyes of the Iranians and we [in the IRGC] are ready to lay down our lives in the service of the Iranian nation,” he added.

The commander said, "No nation would attain power and development without fighting for them and in the absence of resistance against enemies, the society would lose its dignity, security and power.".

The top IRGC commander said enemies have realized that they cannot defeat the Iranian nation through hard war and have resorted to other plots, including economic sanctions. 

“Through imposing the sanctions and mounting economic pressures, [the enemies] want to draw a wedge between this [Islamic] establishment and the nation ... but they must know that although economic sanctions put pressure on the nation, but they will end with the Islamic Iran emerging as the final winner,” General Salami said.

He noted that Iran's enemies, topped by the US, have hatched all kinds of plots against the country and used all kinds of assassinations, sanctions and threats, "but our nation has never stood still and has continued on its past with more rigor."

In May 2018, former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a UN-endorsed nuclear deal, which it had signed as a member of the P5+1 group with Tehran in 2015, and unleashed a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

In response, Iran announced remedial measures, scaling back some of its commitments under the deal, while maintaining that the moves were "reversible" depending on the actions of the other signatories.

The US special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, has admitted that the maximum pressure campaign pushed by Trump's administration against the Islamic Republic “failed miserably” and “hurt US interests”.

US President Joe Biden’s point man for Iran, Robert Malley, admits that ex-president Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Tehran “failed miserably” and “hurt US interests”

Speaking on a television show hosted by MSNBC journalist Mehdi Hasan, Malley said Iran’s nuclear program accelerated only after the former US president launched his maximum pressure campaign.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

1960s Civil Rights Activist Robert Moses Has Died

By REBECCA SANTANA

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2014 file photo shows Robert "Bob" Moses, a director of the Mississippi Summer Project and organizer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) answers questions about Freedom Summer in 1964 during a national youth summit hosted by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Miss. Moses, a civil rights activist who endured beatings and jail while leading Black voter registration drives in the American South during the 1960s and later helped improve minority education in math, died Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Hollywood, Fla. He was 86. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Robert Parris Moses, a civil rights activist who was shot at and endured beatings and jail while leading Black voter registration drives in the American South during the 1960s and later helped improve minority education in math, has died. He was 86.

Moses, who was widely referred to as Bob, worked to dismantle segregation as the Mississippi field director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement and was central to the 1964 “Freedom Summer” in which hundreds of students went to the South to register voters.

Moses started his “second chapter in civil rights work” by founding in 1982 the Algebra Project thanks to a MacArthur Fellowship. The project included a curriculum Moses developed to help struggling students succeed in math.

Ben Moynihan, the director of operations for the Algebra Project, said he had talked with Moses’ wife, Dr. Janet Moses, and she said her husband had passed away Sunday morning in Hollywood, Florida. Information was not given as to the cause of death.

“Bob Moses was a giant, a strategist at the core of the civil rights movement. Through his life’s work, he bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice, making our world a better place,” said the head of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson.

Moses was born in Harlem, New York, on January 23, 1935, two months after a race riot left three dead and injured 60 in the neighborhood. His grandfather, William Henry Moses, has been a prominent Southern Baptist preacher and a supporter of Marcus Garvey, a Black nationalist leader at the turn of the century.

But like many Black families, the Moses family moved north from the South during the Great Migration. Once in Harlem, his family sold milk from a Black-owned cooperative to help supplement the household income, according to “Robert Parris Moses: A Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots,” by Laura Visser-Maessen.

While attending Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, he became a Rhodes Scholar and was deeply influenced by the work of French philosopher Albert Camus and his ideas of rationality and moral purity for social change. Moses then took part in a Quaker-sponsored trip to Europe and solidified his beliefs that change came from the bottom up before earning a master’s in philosophy at Harvard University.

Moses didn’t spend much time in the Deep South until he went on a recruiting trip in 1960 to “see the movement for myself.” He sought out the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta but found little activity in the office and soon turned his attention to SNCC.

“I was taught about the denial of the right to vote behind the Iron Curtain in Europe,” Moses later said. “I never knew that there was (the) denial of the right to vote behind a Cotton Curtain here in the United States.”

The young civil rights advocate tried to register Black people to vote in Mississippi’s rural Amite County where he was beaten and arrested. When he tried to file charges against a white assailant, an all-white jury acquitted the man and a judge provided protection to Moses to the county line so he could leave.

In 1963, he and two other activists — James Travis and Randolph Blackwell — were driving in Greenwood, Mississippi, when someone opened fire on them and the 20-year-old Travis was hit. In a press release from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Moses described how bullets whizzed around them and how Moses took the wheel when Travis was struck and stopped the car.

“We all were within inches of being killed,” Moses said in the 1963 press release.

A reoccurring theme in Moses’ life and work was the need to listen and work with the local populations where activists were trying to effect change, whether that was registering Black voters in some of the most staunchly anti-integration parts of Mississippi or years later working with students and teachers to come up with ways to improve math knowledge.

In an interview with the National Visionary Leadership Project, he talked about the need for civil rights workers to earn the trust of the local population in Mississippi in order to effect change.

“You had to earn the right for the Black population in Mississippi to decide that they were going to work with you because why should they risk everything to work with you if you were somebody or a collection of people who were just not serious?” he said.

He later helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which sought to challenge the all-white Democratic delegation from Mississippi in 1964. But President Lyndon Johnson prevented the group of rebel Democrats from voting in the convention and instead let Jim Crow southerners remain, drawing national attention.

Disillusioned with white liberal reaction to the civil rights movement, Moses soon began taking part in demonstrations against the Vietnam War then cut off all relationships with whites, even former SNCC members.

Moses worked as a teacher in Tanzania, Africa, returned to Harvard to earn a doctorate in philosophy and taught high school math in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He later taught math in Jackson, Mississippi, while commuting back and forth to Massachusetts on the weekends.

The press-shy Moses started his “second chapter in civil rights work” by founding in 1982 the Algebra Project using money he received through the MacArthur Foundation Fellows program — often referred to as “genius” grants — to improve math literacy among underserved populations. Ben Moynihan from the Algebra Project said Moses saw the work of improving mathematics literacy as an extension of the civil rights work he had started in the 1960s.

“Bob really saw the issue of giving hope to young people through access to mathematics literacy.... as a citizenship issue, as critical as the right to vote has been,” Moynihan said.

Historian Taylor Branch, whose “Parting the Waters” won the Pulitzer Prize, said Moses’ leadership embodied a paradox.

“Aside from having attracted the same sort of adoration among young people in the movement that Martin Luther King did in adults,” Branch said, “Moses represented a separate conception of leadership” as arising from and being carried on by “ordinary people.”

___

Former AP reporter Russell Contreras was primary contributor to this report.

Tunisian President Sacks Prime Minister, Freezes Parliament

Reuters

A man reacts as police officers detain a demonstrator during an anti-government protest in Tunis, Tunisia, July 25, 2021. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

TUNIS, July 25 (Reuters) - Tunisia's president said on Sunday he was dismissing the prime minister and freezing parliament in a major escalation of political feuding in the democratic country following protests in several cities.

President Kais Saied said he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister, prompting the biggest challenge yet to a 2014 constitution that split powers between president, prime minister and parliament.

"Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery and robbery of the rights of the people," he said in a statement carried on state media.

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

Saied has been enmeshed in political disputes with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi for over a year, as the country grapples with an economic crisis, a looming fiscal crunch and a flailing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said in his statement that his actions were in line with the constitution, and also suspended the immunity of members of parliament.

Saied and the parliament were both elected in separate popular votes in 2019, while Mechichi took office last summer, replacing another short-lived government.

Reporting by Tarek Amara and Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Jonathan Oatis

Tunisia's President Orders Military to Manage Virus Crisis

AP

Wednesday 21 Jul 2021

Meanwhile, a new interim health minister was taking office Wednesday, after his predecessor was fired

Tunisia's president on Wednesday ordered the military to take over management of the national COVID-19 pandemic response, as the country fights one of Africa's worst outbreaks.

Tunisia's military health service is to take on the task, President Kais Saied announced on regional TV network Al Arabiya.

Soldiers and military medics are already carrying out vaccinations in remote parts of Tunisia. On Tuesday, military trucks transported oxygen to regions in the center and northwest of the country where hospitals are suffering shortages.

Meanwhile, a new interim health minister was taking office Wednesday, after his predecessor was fired over a surprise decision to open vaccination centers to adults of all ages for the first time for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha this week.

Authorities were unprepared for the decision, which prompted confusion and chaos as crowds massed at vaccination centers. The president called it a ``crime'' to incite such gatherings just as the government is trying to discourage crowds and limit the spread of the virus.

Eid al-Adha, or the ``Feast of Sacrifice,'' is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings, slaughtering of livestock and distributing meat to the needy. This year, Tunisian authorities restricted gatherings and reinstated a curfew in some regions where infections are high.

The country also closed some of its Mediterranean beaches in a new blow for the long-struggling tourism sector.

Overall, Tunisia has reported more deaths per capita than any African country and among the highest daily death rates per capita in the world in recent weeks. Foreign countries have been pouring in vaccines and other medical aid.

https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/417505.aspx

Violent Protests in Tunisia over the Economy, Virus Spread

By BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA

Protesters face Tunisian police officers during a demonstration in Tunis, Tunisia, Sunday, July 25, 2021. Violent demonstrations broke out on Sunday in several Tunisian cities as protesters expressed anger at the deterioration of the country's health, economic and social situation. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Violent demonstrations broke out on Sunday in several Tunisian cities as protesters expressed anger at the deterioration of the North African nation’s health, economic and social situation.

Thousands of people defied virus restrictions and scorching heat to demonstrate in the capital of Tunis and other cities. The largely young crowds shouted “Get out!” and slogans calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.

The protests were called on the 64th anniversary of Tunisia’s independence by a new group called the July 25 Movement.

Security forces deployed in force, especially in Tunis where police blockades blocked all streets leading to the main artery of the capital, Avenue Bourguiba. The avenue was a key site for the Tunisian revolution a decade ago that brought down a dictatorial regime and unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings.

Police also deployed around the parliament, preventing demonstrators from accessing it.

Police used tear gas to disperse some demonstrators throwing projectiles at officers and made several arrests. Clashes also took place in several other towns, notably in Nabeul, Sousse, Kairouan, Sfax and Tozeur.

Protesters also stormed the offices of the Islamist movement Ennahdha, the dominant force in parliament. Videos circulating online showed smoke pouring out of the Ennahdha building. The attackers damaged computers and other equipment inside and threw documents onto the streets.

The party denounced the attack, saying that “criminal gangs” from inside and outside Tunisia are trying to “seed chaos and destruction in the service of an agenda aimed at harming the Tunisian democratic process.”

On the coronavirus front, Tunisia has reimposed lockdowns and other virus restrictions because it’s facing one of Africa’s worst virus outbreaks.

The Enigma of the Western Crusade against Ethiopia and the Insidious Face of Racism

July 16, 2021

By Messay Kebede

One thing that has been most incomprehensible for many Ethiopian observers, activists, and politicians is the barrage of one-sided criticisms coming from Western capitals since the eruption in November of an armed conflict between the federal government and the TPLF’s controlled northern region of Tigray.  Directed exclusively against the federal government, the criticisms were soon followed by the implementations of various sanctions that elevated the surprise to the level of utter consternation. The deep differences over the direction of the country under the reformist leadership of Prime Minister Abiy constitute the underlying causes of the conflict. The immediate cause of the war, however, was the surprise attack of TPLF militia forces on the national defense forces stationed in Tigray. The Ethiopian government launched an all-out counter-offensive that it baptized “law enforcement operation,” which resulted in the quick and complete disbanding of TPLF forces. Unsurprisingly, severe humanitarian crises ranging from food shortages and killings of civilians to massive displacements into a neighboring country soon followed the military confrontation.  

From Disbelief to Consternation

In light of the sudden and unprovoked attack on the Ethiopian national forces, the expectation of the Ethiopian government and most Ethiopians was that Western governments and opinions would see the Ethiopian counter-offensive as a legitimate move of self-defense and law enforcement. The expectation never came to fruition. Instead, the Ethiopian troops were accused of a host of violations that included the killings of innocent civilians, the rapes of women, the deliberate destruction of properties and, last but not least, the engagement in genocidal acts. To make matters worse, the involvement in the counter-offensive of Eritrean troops and Amhara militia forces, both reputed to be quite hostile to Tigrean leaders and elites, made the accusations of massive human rights violations even more credible. The end result of all this is that everything was turned upside down: the attacker was seen as the victim. 

The Ethiopian surprise is all the harder to contain as Western governments did not show the same eagerness to express their condemnations during the 27 years of the TPLF’s horrific rule of Ethiopia. Even when repression became so intensified that it compelled the legislative branch of the US government to break the silence, not one single punitive measure was taken. To crown it all, President Obama described the TPLF’s government as a “democratically elected government” during his August 2015 visit to Ethiopia, even as all the 547 seats in the parliament were taken by its members and supporters and numerous activists and political leaders were languishing in jail where they were routinely tortured. Worse still, not one Western government expressed any outrage over the well documented recent massacre in Mai-Kadra of scores of Amhara residents by the TPLF forces in the wake of their retreat from advancing governmental troops and Amhara militia forces. The silence extended to major Western media outlets, which otherwise gave extensive coverage to alleged atrocities committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. After the pause of dismay, the only conclusion left for Ethiopians was to say that the TPLF remains the favorite ally of Western governments and that their open hostility toward the present government is an attempt to come to its rescue.

Western Dictates

For any impartial observer, the silence of Western governments on the far-reaching violations of human rights during the TPLF’s tyrannical rule of Ethiopia is proof enough that the accusation of systematic, widespread, and gross violations of human rights by Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara armed forces is just a smoke screen for underlying geopolitical concerns. According to the Western assessment, not only is the bellicose relation between Tigray and the federal government aggravating the ethnic tensions internal to Ethiopia, but also the involvement of Eritrean troops will have a destabilizing impact on the entire Horn of Africa. In addition, the current dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over the Nile dam and the looming war with Sudan over border disputes have the potential of igniting the flame of war across the whole region. 

To prevent all these calamities from happening, the Western position prescribes the restoration of peace in Tigray through a negotiated settlement with the TPLF as the first necessary step, even though the TPLF, which started an unprovoked war, is severely incapacitated as a result of its crushing military defeat. The negotiation should be extended to all other opposing parties, with the goal of reaching “a wider national reconciliation process” in Ethiopia (G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement on the Situation in Tigray, Ethiopia, April 2, 2021).

At first look, the proposed solution seems to be a reasonable one in that negotiations and national reconciliation are usually conducive to the restoration of national peace. Unfortunately, one has to be totally or fraudulently ignorant of the situation in Ethiopia to propose such a remedy. The proposal to negotiate with a party that is widely abhorred for its atrocities and its use of ethnicity as a divide-and-rule tactic to achieve political and economic hegemony, even though it represented a region with only 6% of the Ethiopian population, is nothing short of a dreadful slap in the face of Ethiopians. As to the inclusion of other opposing parties, their own extremist, and sometimes even secessionist, ethno-nationalist ideologies prevent them from participating in the mainstream of Ethiopian politics. So that, the proposed negotiation has no chance of succeeding, still less of reinstating peace. On the contrary, it has the potential of intensifying ethnic clashes already underway all over the country, with the result that the country will be engulfed in an uncontrollable civil war. Clearly, the Libyan tragic experience of removing a government without a viable alternative has not yet wised up Western governments.

What, then, is preventing Western governments from seeing what is but obvious for so many Ethiopians? Since the concern for humanitarian crises is not believable, there remains the geopolitical interest of the West. In the eyes of Western governments, the scenario of an expanding war to neighboring states is quite present unless the Ethiopian government agrees to settle all its disputes by means of negotiations. More importantly, these negotiations will have any chance to succeed only if they are supervised by forces that are capable of putting real pressure on all the concerned parties, like the European Union and notably the US government. 

Granted the logic of the argument, the hitch is that, as already stated, the suggested negotiated solutions have zero chance of achieving the goal of peace. The solutions do not take into account that the war in Tigray as well as the various clashes in different parts of the country are caused by groups that harbor extremist ethnonationalist ideologies. It is indeed strange to assume that these groups will negotiate in good faith and will commit to be responsible members of a representative government. By contrast, the right solution, that is, the solution that arises from the existing problems, would be to strengthen the exiting government so that it prevails over these violent forces and establishes a lasting internal peace. As to the external problems, the approach to intimidate Ethiopia only encourages Egypt and Sudan to become more intransigent, and so stands in the way of negotiated settlements. In short, the unbalanced intervention of Western governments does no more than seek the capitulation of Ethiopia; it does not facilitate negotiations.  

Consider, for instance, the Ethiopian government’s unilateral decision to declare ceasefire and withdraw its troops from Tigray. One would normally expect that Western governments and media sources would welcome such a decision. Unbelievable as it may seem, not only the expectation did not materialize, but also the decision became a springboard for another round of criticisms and threats of further sanctions. The reason for this unexpected reaction springs from the Western frustration of not being obeyed: the West wanted a negotiated settlement, not a unilateral ceasefire, as it excludes the TPLF and the ethnonationalist forces. Similarly, West governments drag their feet on recognizing Abiy as the legitimate Prime Minister of Ethiopia, even though he and his party obtained a resounding victory in the recent elections that many observers considered as relatively democratic––compared to all previous elections in Ethiopia—under very difficult circumstances. The reason for this hesitation is the same: the US government posited negotiations between contending forces and the government as a precondition for the holding of the national elections, even if among the contending parties that boycotted the elections, some were and still are prone to the use of intimidation and violent methods. Raising the democratic bar to an unprecedented level for a third-world country, we heard Secretary Blinken say, “Elections . . . are not in and of themselves a sufficient marker of democracy or genuine political reform.” Had it been another country than Ethiopia, we would have heard him say that the elections, as difficult as they have been, are a step in the right direction. 

The Emotional Mixture

The attitude of Western governments is all the more incomprehensible the more we recall that, until not long ago, Ethiopia was considered as an important and reliable ally of the West. What then is the added element that explains the sudden shift of Western policy toward Abiy and his government? To see that the change was indeed sudden, we just have to recall the phone conversation that Secretary Blinken had with Prime Minister Abiy on February 5, 2021, and in which he “reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Ethiopia’s reform agenda and support for the upcoming national elections.”

We have already discarded the humanitarian concern. Geopolitical reasons are not enough to explain the change, either, since when an ally is in trouble, the expectation is that you come to its rescue. The explanation jumps out when one puts into play the terms of the partnership between Ethiopia and the West, namely, the status of Ethiopia as a junior partner. From the persistent refusal of Ethiopian authorities to abide by the terms set by the West as a condition for the peaceful resolution of the war in Tigray and of the conflicts with neighboring countries, the West drew the conclusion that the junior partner no longer wants to play by the rules. Instead of playing the cards dealt to it by the West, the junior partner has adopted the viewpoint of what it considers to be its legitimate rights and interests. Western unfair criticisms and sanctions are punishments for the naughty behavior of a junior partner.

The point is that the Western reactions and measures cannot be justified in terms of geopolitical considerations. The best that they can achieve is to weaken the Ethiopian state, which so far has been the only reliable and stabilizing force in the Horn. Moreover, such a weakening can only give free rein to ethnonationalist forces within Ethiopia itself, thereby turning the specter of a widespread civil war into an unavoidable outcome. The reckless nature of the Western resolutions and measures is so tangible that one must infer that they stem from an emotional state of mind rather than from rational deliberations, the very emotional state at being rebuffed by a junior partner. Where obedience is expected, defiance must entail punishment, and this is all the truer when the junior partner belongs to a poverty-stricken continent that falls short of the capacity needed to govern itself. 

For those who contest the racist overtone of the Western measures, I simply ask them to remember that what defines racism is not so much the hatred of the other as the expectation of an unconditional obedience from the person ranked as inferior. Hate requires the recognition of some measure of parity, whereas as racism is more sensitive to the lack of acknowledgement of superiority. As such, racism induces sentiments like anger, irritation, and even outrage, which are reactions to the breach of required submission, that is, to the hierarchical norms governing the relations between races. My contention is that the irrational and reckless nature of the Western reactions vis-à-vis Ethiopia compels us to admit the big part played by racist indignation at seeing the defiant behavior of Ethiopian authorities. The indignation also explains the moral smugness of the West, which not only gives so easily credit to all the stories of rape, indiscriminate killings, and genocidal acts concocted by the TPLF’s supporters, but also justifies intervention in the name of the obligation of “the morally superior” to tame those who still live in barbarism.  

Messay Kebede is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Dayton

Eritrean Refugees Under Attack in Ethiopia’s Tigray War

By CARA ANNA

July 23, 2021

Elena, 7, left, plays a game of checkers using soda bottle tops with friend Hailemariam, 12, at a reception and day center for displaced Tigrayans in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, Sunday, May 9, 2021. The Tigray conflict has displaced more than 1 million people, the International Organization for Migration reported in April, and the numbers continue to rise. Some thousands of Eritrean refugees are among the most vulnerable groups in the Tigray conflict and are increasingly caught in the middle of the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Thousands of Eritrean refugees are increasingly caught in the middle of the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where witnesses and U.N. officials say forces have attacked their camps, abducted or killed some of the residents, and stolen their food and possessions.

The refugees are among the most vulnerable groups in the Tigray conflict, which broke out in November between the region’s forces and Ethiopian federal troops. It has left thousands of people dead.

The refugees say they have been targeted by both sides. Troops from their native Eritrea, which sent forces over the border to support Ethiopian soldiers, have been accused of destroying a refugee camp and abductions. And the refugees say they have also come under attack as scapegoats from Tigrayans, who allege widespread abuses by Eritrean soldiers.

Before the conflict, around 50,000 Eritrean refugees — many of whom fled their country’s authoritarian government and its policy of indefinite military service — were present in four camps in Tigray, according to the United Nations. Another 42,000 were scattered elsewhere in the region and the rest of Ethiopia. Two of the camps were destroyed early in the war, and the fate of thousands of their residents is unknown.

Last week, Tigray forces captured the remaining two camps, Mai Aini and Adi Harush, after launching an offensive against forces from the neighboring Amhara region as they sought to take back more territory following the retreat of Eritrean and Ethiopian federal forces from the region last month.

Residents of Adi Harush camp told The Associated Press that Tigray forces have since abducted more than a dozen refugees and raided dozens of homes, stealing mobile phones, food and other supplies. “There is a lot of daily robbery,” said one resident who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Last week, the U.N. refugee agency’s Ethiopia representative, Ann Encontre, expressed alarm and confirmed the death of at least one Eritrean refugee. “Tens of thousands of refugees, fearful for their lives, are currently trapped and unable to move due to the insecurity and ongoing movement of troops,” she said.

Ethiopia’s refugee agency in a statement on Thursday called it “tantamount to a hostage situation.”

Fighting continues to the south of the camps, where Amhara forces are massing with the intention of retaking the area. Refugees in Adi Harush said Tigray forces positioned weapons in the camp to repel an attack.

Separately, U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi condemned the arrests in recent weeks of “hundreds” of refugees in Shire, a town under Tigray forces’ control, and cited “credible and corroborated reports of reprisal attacks, abductions, arrests and violence meted out against Eritrean refugees for their perceived affiliation with one side or the other” since the conflict began in November.

The Tigray forces have denied targeting Eritrean refugees and in a statement on Thursday they said they were “gravely concerned” about reports of attacks. Spokesman for the forces, Getachew Reda, could not be reached for further comment.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of some 9,200 Eritrean refugees from the two other camps, Hitsats and Shimelba, are unknown, according to the U.N. Fighting erupted in Hitsats in November when Eritrean troops captured the surrounding area from Tigray forces.

The Eritreans later withdrew from the camp, and Tigray forces reclaimed the area. Several refugees said the Tigray forces engaged in reprisal attacks against them, killing 10 people outside the camp’s church.

“We were all afraid, so we left the camp, but the Tigray militias followed us,” said one Hitsats resident. “When they caught us, they threw grenades. A lot of people I know died that day. … I think they wanted revenge because the Eritrean government attacked them.”

Other Eritrean refugees told similar accounts of attacks by Tigray forces after they fled Hitsats. One said 40 of the 60 people he was traveling with were killed near the settlement of Zban Gedena.

Another refugee said dozens of people he fled with were killed in the same area. “I have never been scared like I was on that day,” he said.

Many of the camp’s residents were rounded up by Tigray forces and taken back to Hitsats.

“That’s when the hard times started,” said a refugee who was rounded up. “For one month there was nothing to eat or drink. We were eating leaves and grass to survive.”

Several residents said Tigray forces beat camp residents and stole their food while in control of Hitsats in December. Eritrean refugees described similar hardships in Shimelba camp and said 16 refugees were killed there in January amid fighting by Tigray forces and Eritrean troops.

An internal U.N. assessment seen by the AP confirmed that deaths, abductions and looting occurred in Shimelba and Hitsats but concluded the perpetrators were “unknown armed groups.”

In January, Eritrean forces retook Hitsats camp and ordered the remaining residents to leave, several refugees who witnessed it told the AP.

“The Eritrean troops ordered all the refugees back to Eritrea via Sheraro,” one Hitsats resident said. “At Sheraro, they ordered us onto large trucks, but I managed to escape by hiding myself in a house.”

Other refugees said Eritrean troops made thousands of refugees walk to the border, but they suggested that, even though they could face further persecution by the authoritarian government in Eritrea, some may have returned voluntarily to escape the violence in Tigray. Eritrea’s Information Ministry did not respond to questions.

A refugee now in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, said he saw Eritrean soldiers dousing buildings in Hitsats camp in petrol and setting them alight immediately after the refugees were ordered to leave. Refugees interviewed also said troops previously abducted residents of both Hitsats and Shimelba.

The U.N. estimates that 7,300 Eritrean refugees from Shimelba and Hitsats made it to Mai Aini and Adi Harush. Now, months later, as the Tigray forces expand their offensive, the refugees fear again being caught up in hostilities.

In a text message, one Adi Harush resident described a desperate situation with no access to aid and constant harassment by Tigray forces. “By God, please help us,” he said.

Florida COVID-19 Hospitalizations Jump Significantly Again

By TERRY SPENCER and BOBBY CAINA CALVAN

July 23, 2021

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases again jumped significantly this week as the vaccination rate in rural counties where some of the worst outbreaks are occurring remains well below the state and national averages.

About 5,300 Floridians are now hospitalized with COVID, a 65% jump since last week and nearly a tripling since June 14 when 1,845 were hospitalized, the Florida Hospital Association said. Officials have said more than 95% of those hospitalized were not vaccinated.

About 60% of residents 12 and older are vaccinated, according to the state, equal to the national rate. But the percentage of vaccinated adults remains low in the state’s rural, strongly conservative north, where some counties are at about 30% as residents don’t trust the vaccination program but have high infection rates.

More than 73,000 new coronavirus cases were reported statewide over the past week, according to the state health department, nearly seven times the 12,000 reported a month ago. Florida’s numbers had been falling since mid-January when 100,000 new cases per week were reported and 8,200 were hospitalized just as the vaccination program began.

“This thing got politicized nationally, and we’re paying the price,” said Jared Moskowitz, the state’s former emergency management director. “This is mostly now a pandemic amongst the unvaccinated.”

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been vaccinated, this week encouraged the remaining unvaccinated Floridians to get their shots.

“If you are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, the chance of you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero,” DeSantis said. “These vaccines are saving lives.”

More than 38,000 Floridians have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020, including an average of 33 per day over the past week. That’s compared with 24 per day earlier this month. In late January, 185 Floridians per day were dying.

Still, despite the recent surge, DeSantis said the state will not return to government mandates — in May, he barred municipalities from imposing their own and banned businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. He said it is up to individuals on how they deal with the pandemic.

“We have a situation where we have three vaccines that have been widely available for months and months now and people need to make decisions that are best for them,” he said. “To have the government come in and to lock anyone down or restrict anyone is totally unacceptable.”

The state’s Democrats and their allies said that is the wrong approach and accused him of putting his 2022 reelection campaign and possible 2024 presidential run ahead of Floridians’ health. They want cities and counties to be able to again impose their own mandates and restrictions such as requiring masks in indoor public places.

“The surge is ... being facilitated by misguided orders from Tallahassee that block local leaders and businesses from pro-actively protecting individuals from unnecessary exposure,” the 10 Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation wrote in a letter to DeSantis.

Florida doctors affiliated with the Committee to Protect Health Care, a progressive group, criticized DeSantis for attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top government infectious disease official who has pushed for more cautious policies than the governor.

They said DeSantis’ recent mocking of Fauci’s errant first pitch at a Washington Nationals game a year ago and his reelection campaign’s sale of merchandise emblazoned with “Don’t Fauci my Florida” detracts from the serious message he should send about the virus. They accused him of dividing Floridians on an issue that should unite them.

“Why is he undermining infectious disease experts and their recommendations? The consequences of (his) leadership has been a steep rise in COVID-19 cases and an increased number of Floridians dying,” said Dr. Frederick Southwick, chief of the University of Florida medical school’s infectious disease division.

DeSantis has argued that his COVID leadership has been effective, protecting nursing home patients, seniors and others of the most vulnerable.

Because of the new outbreak, several hospitals across the state are reinstituting visitation restrictions. Jackson Health, the state’s largest provider, has barred visitors for most of its patients at its hospitals. Others are limiting visitors to one per patient. AdventHealth in central Florida has temporarily stopped doing inpatient elective surgeries.

Jackson said it had 143 COVID-19 patients this week compared with 66 in early July, a 117% increase.

Dr. Lilian Abbo, head of Jackson’s infectious disease prevention program, believes most of those becoming ill are infected with the delta variant as they are becoming sicker faster than with earlier strains of the coronavirus. They are also not seniors and other groups that were previously prevalent.

“We are seeing younger people in their 20s and 30s with not much risk factors -- not obese, not diabetic — coming in very sick,” Abbo said. “Some of them requiring potential lung transplants.”

____

Calvan reported from Tallahassee, Florida.

Fauci Says US Headed in `Wrong Direction’ on Coronavirus

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci responds to accusations by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., as he testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Cases of COVID-19 have tripled over the past three weeks, and hospitalizations and deaths are rising among unvaccinated people. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The United States is in an “unnecessary predicament” of soaring COVID-19 cases fueled by unvaccinated Americans and the virulent delta variant, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert said Sunday.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, describing himself as “very frustrated.”

He said recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration” by the government’s leading public health officials. Also, booster shots may be suggested for people with suppressed immune systems who have been vaccinated, Fauci said.

Fauci, who also serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he has taken part in conversations about altering the mask guidelines.

He noted that some local jurisdictions where infection rates are surging, such as Los Angeles County, are already calling on individuals to wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. Fauci said those local rules are compatible with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that the vaccinated do not need to wear masks in public.

Nearly 163 million people, or 49% of the eligible U.S. population, are vaccinated, according to CDC data.

“This is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated, which is the reason why we’re out there, practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated,” Fauci said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Fauci said government experts are reviewing early data as they consider whether to recommend that vaccinated individuals to get booster shots. He suggested that some of the most vulnerable, such as organ transplant and cancer patients, are “likely” to be recommended for booster shots.

He also praised Republicans, including Govs. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, and the second-ranking House leader, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, for encouraging their constituents to get vaccinated. Their states have among the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

“What I would really like to see is more and more of the leaders in those areas that are not vaccinating to get out and speak out and encourage people to get vaccinated,” Fauci said.

US General Vows to Continue Air Strikes Supporting Afghan Troops

AFP

Sunday 25 Jul 2021

The United States will continue air strikes in support of Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, a top US general said Sunday, as the insurgents press on with offensives across the country.

Since early May, violence has surged after the insurgents launched a sweeping assault just days after the US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal.

The Taliban's deadly assault has seen the insurgents capture scores of districts, border crossings and encircle several provincial capitals.

"The United States has increased air strikes in the support of Afghan forces over the last several days, and we are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks," General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, told reporters in Kabul.

McKenzie acknowledged that there were tough days ahead for the Afghan government, but insisted that the Taliban were nowhere close to victory.

"The Taliban are attempting to create a sense of inevitability about their campaign. They are wrong," he said.

"Taliban victory is not inevitable."

McKenzie's remarks came as Afghan officials in the southern province of Kandahar said fighting in the region had displaced about 22,000 families in the past month.

"They have all moved from the volatile districts of the city to safer areas," Dost Mohammad Daryab, head of the provincial refugee department, told AFP.

On Sunday, fighting continued on the outskirts of Kandahar city.

"The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has made way for the Taliban to come that close," Lalai Dastageeri, deputy governor of Kandahar province, told AFP.

"We are now trying to organise our security forces."

Local authorities had set up four camps for the displaced people who are estimated to be about 154,000.

Kandahar resident Hafiz Mohammad Akbar said his house had been taken over by the Taliban after he fled.

"They forced us to leave... I am now living with my 20-member family in a compound with no toilet," said Akbar.

- Fears of fighting to increase -

Residents expressed concerns the fighting might increase in days ahead.

"If they really want to fight, they should go to a desert and fight, not destroy the city," said Khan Mohammad, who moved to a camp with his family.

"Even if they win, they can't rule a ghost town."

Kandahar, with its 650,000 inhabitants, is the second-largest city in Afghanistan after Kabul.

The southern province was the epicentre of the Taliban's regime when they ruled Afghanistan between 1996 to 2001.

Ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001 after the September 11 attacks, the Taliban have spearheaded a deadly insurgency that continues to this day.

Their latest offensive launched in early May has seen the group take control of half of the country's about 400 districts.

Earlier this week, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff General Mark Milley said the Taliban appear to have "strategic momentum" on the battlefield.

Global rights group Human Rights Watch said there were reports the Taliban were committing atrocities against civilians in areas they had captured, including in the town of Spin Boldak near the border with Pakistan they took earlier this month.

"Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for any abuses, but growing evidence of expulsions, arbitrary detentions, and killings in areas under their control are raising fears among the population," said Patricia Grossman, associate Asia director at HRW said in a statement.

The authorities meanwhile announced they had arrested four men they said belonged to the Taliban, accusing them of carrying out this week's rocket attack on Kabul.

"A Taliban commander, Momin, along with his three other men, have been arrested. They all belong to the Taliban group," ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai told reporters in a video message.

At least three rockets landed near the palace on Tuesday as President Ashraf Ghani and his top officials performed outdoor prayers to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The attack was however claimed by the jihadist Islamic State group.

https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/417698.aspx

AstraZeneca Searching for Vaccines for Virus-hit Southeast Asia

AFP

Saturday 24 Jul 2021

AstraZeneca said it was scouring its supply chain to find more doses of its Covid-19 vaccine for Southeast Asia, which is facing its most serious outbreak yet of the virus

Drugmaker AstraZeneca said Saturday it was scouring its supply chain to find more doses of its Covid-19 vaccine for Southeast Asia, which is facing its most serious outbreak yet of the virus.

The statement from the Anglo-Swedish company -- which produces its vaccine in Thailand for use domestically and in neighbouring countries -- comes in the wake of a supply shortage which has sparked heavy criticism of Thai Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha's administration.

Under the terms of AstraZeneca's agreement with Thai authorities, 180 million doses are due for production, one-third destined for the Thai market and the rest to be exported.

By the end of July AstraZeneca will have delivered 11.3 million doses for Thailand, according to James Teague, AstraZeneca's representative in the country.

Exports have still not begun, even as the region faces a particularly virulent wave of Covid-19.

"We are delivering in the fastest possible timeframe, however, given the gravity of the Delta variant, we are leaving no stone unturned to accelerate supply further still," Teague said in an "open letter to the people of Thailand".

"We are also scouring the 20+ supply chains in our worldwide manufacturing network to find additional vaccines for Southeast Asia, including Thailand."

But "a global supply crunch" for Covid-19 vaccines and a shortage of the materials required to make them made it difficult to provide a specific timeframe, he added.

The AstraZeneca contract was awarded last year to Siam Bioscience, a firm owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn that has no track record of producing vaccines.

It set out to produce vaccines for nine countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, as well as Thailand.

Siam Bioscience has not commented on reports of insufficient production or late delivery.

But Thailand has been forced to change its vaccine strategy by importing millions of doses of Chinese vaccines.

Anger is mounting, with just five percent of Thailand's 70 million residents fully vaccinated.

Most Thais avoid talking about it openly because of harsh lese majeste laws that make it illegal to criticise the monarch. Those that do face between three and 15 years in prison.

Former opposition leader and billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has already been accused under the law after he said the vaccination policy was too dependent on Siam Bioscience.

Thailand is among a host of Southeast Asian countries that kept infection numbers low during 2020 but now face record numbers of cases amid slow vaccination campaigns.

https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/417623.aspx

Iraq Arrests 'Cell' over Deadly Bombing Claimed by IS Group

AFP

Saturday 24 Jul 2021

We have arrested all the members of the cowardly terrorist cell that planned and perpetrated the attack, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi said on Twitter

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi announced Saturday the arrest of a "terror cell" behind a Baghdad market bombing that killed dozens and was claimed by the Islamic State group.

The attack sparked revulsion and renewed fears about the reach of IS, which lost its last territory in Iraq after a gruelling campaign that ended in late 2017, but retains sleeper cells in remote desert and mountain areas.

The bombing took place on Monday at Al-Woheilat market in Sadr City, a Shia suburb in the capital, and officially killed 30 people, excluding the direct perpetrator.

"We have arrested all the members of the cowardly terrorist cell that planned and perpetrated the attack," Kadhemi said on Twitter, "and they will be put before a judge today."

The prime minister did not specify the number of people arrested, but a source at the interior ministry said the suspects were anticipated to make televised "confessions", a common occurence for major crimes in Iraq.

Deadly attacks were common in Baghdad during the sectarian bloodletting that followed the US-led invasion of 2003, and later on as IS swept across much of Iraq in a lightning 2014 offensive.

Iraq declared IS defeated in late 2017 after a fierce three-year campaign and attacks became relatively rare in the capital -- until January this year when a twin IS-claimed suicide bombing killed 32 people in another market.

The US-led coalition that supported Iraq's campaign against IS has significantly drawn down its troop levels over the past year, citing increased capabilities of Iraqi forces.

But US troops have been targeted by powerful Iraqi pro-Iran armed factions, which want them to withdraw from the country entirely.

The US and Iran share enmity toward IS, but Tehran also sees Washington as its arch-nemesis.

- New drone attack-

An armed drone targeted a military base in Iraqi Kurdistan that hosts American troops, without causing casualties, the US-led coalition said Saturday.

It was the latest in a spate of attacks on US military and diplomatic facilities in Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdish media outlets said the attack targeted a base at Al-Harir, 70 kilometres (45 miles) northeast of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region.

US interests in Iraq have been hit by 50 rocket and drone attacks so far this year -- assaults Washington consistently blames on Tehran-backed factions operating within Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary alliance.

The Iraqi Resistance Coordination Committee on Friday threatened to continue the attacks unless the US withdraws all its forces and ends the "occupation".

Most of the American troops deployed in the coalition, which helped defeat IS in Iraq in 2017, were withdrawn under former US president Donald Trump.

Those that remain are officially classed as advisers and trainers for Iraq's army and counter-terrorism units.

Kadhemi is expected to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on Monday to discuss a possible full US troop withdrawal from Iraq.

But analysts say events in the wake of the 2011 US withdrawal from Iraq -- notably the rise of IS -- may make Biden reluctant to authorise a full pullout, for fear of giving the jihadists rooms to regenerate once more.

https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/417620.aspx

Cars, Pavements Washed Away as Belgian Town Hit by Worst Floods in Decades

Reuters

Sunday 25 Jul 2021

Rainwater gushing down steep streets swept away dozens of cars, piling them in a heap at a crossing, and washed away cobbles stones, pavements and whole sections of tarmac as inhabitants watched in horror from windows

The southern Belgian town of Dinant was hit by the heaviest floods in decades on Saturday after a two-hour thunderstorm turned streets into torrential streams that washed away cars and pavements but did not kill anyone.

Dinant was spared the deadly floods 10 days ago that killed 37 people in southeast Belgium and many more in Germany, but the violence of Saturday's storm surprised many.

"I have been living in Dinant for 57 years, and I've never seen anything like that," Richard Fournaux, the former mayor of the town on the Meuse river and birthplace of the 19th century inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax, said on social media.

Rainwater gushing down steep streets swept away dozens of cars, piling them in a heap at a crossing, and washed away cobbles stones, pavements and whole sections of tarmac as inhabitants watched in horror from windows.

There was no precise estimate of the damage, with town authorities predicting only that it would be "significant", according to Belgian RTL TV.

The storm wreaked similar havoc, also with no loss of life, in the small town of Anhee a few kilometres north of Dinant.

https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/417687.aspx

Saturday, July 24, 2021

SIERRA LEONE LAWMAKERS VOTE TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY

A majority of MPs voted by acclamation in favour of an amendment abolishing the death penalty, according to AFP journalist who was present in the chamber.

Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio attends a press conference after a meeting with Ivorian President on 4 May 2018 at the presidential palace in Abidjan. Picture: AFP

AFP 

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone - Sierra Leonean lawmakers voted to abolish the death penalty Friday, becoming to the latest African country to move toward banning capital punishment.

A majority of MPs voted by acclamation in favour of an amendment abolishing the death penalty, according to AFP journalist who was present in the chamber.

Capital punishment will be replaced with life imprisonment or a minimum 30-year jail term for crimes such as murder or mutiny.

No execution has taken place in the country since 1998, and death sentences have often been commuted.

But Sierra Leone, which is still recovering after decades of civil war, has frequently come under fire from rights groups for keeping capital punishment on the books.

In May, Deputy Justice Minister Umaru Napoleon Koroma announced that the government would move to ban the death penalty to "uphold the fundamental human rights of Sierra Leoneans".

During a lively debate in the 146-member legislature on Friday, Mathew Nyumah, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party, urged MPs to vote for abolition.

"Please understand this is something we are sacrificing to meet international best practice," he said.

President Julius Maada Bio must still sign off on the abolition voted by parliament before it becomes law.

The vote in Sierra Leone comes as the use of capital punishment has been falling across the African continent, and more countries have been outlawing the practice.

FALLING EXECUTIONS

Sierra Leone's 1991 constitution allows the use of the death penalty for aggravated robbery, murder, treason and mutiny.

However, the last executions in the country were carried out in 1998, when 24 military officers were put to death after a coup attempt the year before.

The diamond-rich but poor former British colony was ravaged by a 1991-2002 civil war that claimed 120,000 lives.

A truth and reconciliation commission set up in 2005 to investigate the brutal conflict recommended abolishing the death penalty, calling it "an affront to civilised society".

But the authorities in the nation of 7.5 million people resisted immediately abolishing capital punishment, and courts condemned 84 people to death between 2016 and 2020, according to the UN.

With the parliament vote, Sierra Leone is set to become the latest African country to abolish the death penalty.

Malawi banned capital punishment in April, for example, and Chad scrapped the practice last year.

According to Amnesty International, 108 countries had completely abolished the death penalty by the end of 2020, while 144 had abolished it in law or in practice.

Both executions and death penalties also fell across sub-Saharan Africa last year, the rights group said.

Recorded death sentences fell by six percent, from 325 in 2019 to 305 last year, while executions were down 36 percent, falling from 25 in 2019 to 16 in 2020.

South Africa’s Vaccination Drive Regains Pace After Unrest

By MOGOMOTSI MAGOME and ANDREW MELDRUM

FILE - In this July 6, 2021, file photo, a patient receives a Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 in Hammanskraal, South Africa. South Africa's COVID-19 vaccination campaign is regaining momentum after being disrupted earlier this month by a week of riots following the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma. (AP Photo/Alet Pretorius, File)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign is regaining momentum after being disrupted earlier this month by a week of riots sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma, the country’s acting health minister said Friday.

At least 120 pharmacies, including 71 that were vaccination sites, were damaged and closed during the unrest in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, acting Health Minister Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said. More than 47,000 vaccine doses were destroyed when the sites were ransacked, she said.

“The social unrest has added to the complexity of our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kubayi-Ngubane said, adding that the “violent nature of the protests unsettled the health care system as a whole.”

At least 337 people died during the riots, including 213 deaths that police are investigating as possible murders, the government has stated. Major highways to Durban, one of Africa’s busiest Indian Ocean ports, were also closed and barricaded, with more than 27 trucks burned in KwaZulu-Natal.

Police also are investigating 132 cases of arson, including the burning of 11 warehouses and 8 factories. Property worth an estimated 20 billion rand ($1.37 billion) was destroyed in KwaZulu-Natal. The violence was finally quelled when 25,000 army troops were deployed.

South Africa is battling a resurgence of COVID-19. The country reported 14,858 new infections and 433 deaths Friday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccination rates dropped as a result of the unrest, but have picked up pace. South Africa gave shots to more than 220,000 people per day this week and aims to increase the number to 300,000 jabs each weekday next week.

More than 6 million South Africans have received at least one shot and 1.6 million are fully vaccinated with two jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The country has now opened vaccinations to everybody above age 35.

The government has said it aims to have 67% of South Africa’s 60 million people fully vaccinated by February.

With 2.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, South Africa accounts for more than 30% of the 6.3 million cases reported by all 54 countries in Africa, according to the Africa CDC.

Tanzania Receives 1st Batch of COVID-19 Vaccines

By TOM ODULA

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — Tanzania on Saturday received its first batch of 1 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated by the U.S. government.

Tanzania had been among the few countries in Africa yet to receive vaccines or start inoculating its population, mainly because its former leader had claimed prayer had defeated COVID-19 in the country.

The vaccines were received by Foreign Affairs Minister Liberata Mulamula and the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, Donald Wright, at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in the country’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

Former Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who died in March, had refused to accept vaccines after he claimed three days of prayer had healed the country of the virus in June 2020.

Magufuli, 61, was among the world’s most prominent skeptics of COVID-19. Though his official cause of death was reported to be cardiac arrest, Magufuli’s critics believe he died of COVID-19.

Magufuli’s deputy, Samai Suluhu Hassan, took over as president in line with the country’s constitution and became the first female president in Tanzania.

Hassan has reversed Tanzania’s practice of denying COVID-19′s spread in the East African country.