4 people killed in Florida shooting


4 people killed in Florida shooting

No police were injured in the shootout. The suspect reportedly was a survivalist “who came for a gunfight” and admitted to using methamphetamine

Four people, including an infant, were killed in the US state of Florida, according to local media reports.

An 11-year-old girl was injured after being shot “multiple times” in the incident on Sunday in Lakeland, Xinhua news agency quoted the reports as saying.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the shootings took place at 4.30 a.m. in two separate houses, adding that the suspect surrendered after being wounded in a shootout with police.

No police were injured in the shootout, he added.

The suspect reportedly was a survivalist “who came for a gunfight” and admitted to using methamphetamine.




Raisi open to ‘useful’ talks on lifting sanctions


Raisi open to ‘useful’ talks on lifting sanctions

Regarding Lebanon, Raisi expressed Iran’s support for the formation of a strong government that can ensure and protect the rights of the Lebanese.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that his country is ready for “useful” talks aimed at lifting sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

“We do not oppose useful negotiations, but the plan and result of negotiations must be the lifting of sanctions against Iran,” he said while speaking to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Sunday.

This was the second phone conversation between the two leaders within a month.

Besides the nuclear issue, the independence of Iran and France in their policies is a “valuable reserve” that may be used to establish “balanced, strong and stable” ties between the two countries, Raisi told the French President.

Concerning the current situation in Afghanistan, the Iranian president said the US and NATO policy of military intervention has failed, and 20 years of occupation have had no benefit for the Afghan people.

“In the current situation, everyone must help form an inclusive government with the participation of all groups” in the country and let the Afghan people decide their own destiny, he added.

Regarding Lebanon, Raisi expressed Iran’s support for the formation of a strong government that can ensure and protect the rights of the Lebanese.

He said Iran would not withhold any humanitarian aid to Lebanon, and voiced Tehran’s readiness to cooperate with France for the progress.

For his part, Macron stressed the need to review the ties between France and Iran, and expressed his country’s interest in developing its relations with Tehran.

Macron mentioned the Afghan refugees in Iran as well as the problems caused by their presence, and emphasised the need for the assistance of the UN Refugee Agency.

Concerning the situation in Lebanon, Macron expressed France’s readiness to cooperate with Iran, along with Hezbollah to help create a strong and efficient government in the country.

Macron also voiced hope that the Vienna talks aiming to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement could resume with the presence of Iran.




Yemen army recaptures strategic mountains


Yemen army recaptures strategic mountains

The UN has warned that the offensive on Marib, which hosts nearly 1 million internally displaced people, could lead to a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Following days of deadly fighting, the Yemen army has recaptured a chain of strategic mountains near the southeastern tips of the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, a military source said.

“The army forces backed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes pushed back the Iran-backed Houthi rebels from the chain of Al-Abzakh mountains in Rahabah district southwest of Marib province,” the source told Xinhua news agency on Sunday.

According to the pro-government local media, the army during the week-long fighting also recaptured many areas north and east of the Al-Abzakh mountains.

“The rebels fled, leaving behind heavy weapons. Now most of Rahabah district is under the army’s control,” the source sadded.

Meanwhile, the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported 29 Saudi-led airstrikes on Rahabah district over the past two days, without providing further details.

In February, the Houthis began a major offensive on Marib in a desperate attempt to seize control of the oil-rich province, the government’s last northern stronghold.

The UN has warned that the offensive on Marib, which hosts nearly 1 million internally displaced people, could lead to a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Yemen’s civil war flared up in late 2014 when the Houthi group seized control of much of the country’s north and forced the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of Sanaa.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in the Yemeni conflict in March 2015 to support Hadi’s government.




Covid disproportionately affects people of colour in US: Poll


Covid disproportionately affects people of colour in US: Poll

According to July data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black and Hispanic people are now hospitalised at 2.8 times the rate as white people

The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected people of colour in the US, a new poll has revealed.

The survey, conducted by US market analytics company The Harris Poll, revealed that nearly one in four Latina women in the US have reported losing a family member to the coronavirus, reports Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, Latina women were at least 5 per cent more likely to get infected or have a family member who contracts Covid-19 than other women of colour, according to the poll.

Nearly 80 per cent of Latina women have reported feeling personally affected by the pandemic, whether they underwent falling ill, losing a family member, unemployment or eviction.

At least 37 per cent of Latina women also reported facing mental health difficulties amid the pandemic, as compared to 29 per cent of Black women and 34 per cent of Asian American and Pacific Islander women.

The poll was conducted from April 7 to May 16 with 1,617 US adult women who self-identify as Black or African American; of Hispanic, Latina, or Spanish-speaking background; or Asian American Pacific Islander, or of any ethnicity/national origin recognised in the Asian race by the US Census Bureau.

The survey comes after more than a year of statistics showing that people of colour have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to July data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black and Hispanic people are now hospitalised at 2.8 times the rate as white people and contract the virus at least 1.1 times the rate.

Additionally, vaccination rates across the country have frequently been lower among people of colour than white individuals since the rollout first began in December 2020.

So far, less than 10 per cent of Black and Asian Americans have been vaccinated for Covid-19, while roughly 16 per cent of Hispanic and Latino Americans have received at least one dose, according to the CDC.

By comparison, over 58 per cent of white people in the US are at least partially vaccinated against the virus.




5 killed in clashes in Beirut: Report


5 killed in clashes in Beirut: Report

Contacts among Lebanese authorities are underway to reduce tensions in Khaldeh while the Lebanese army units were deployed in the area

Five people were killed and over 10 others were wounded on Sunday in an armed clash between supporters of Hezbollah and a rival faction in Khaldeh at the southern entrance of Beirut, al-Jadeed local TV channel reported.

The armed clashes erupted after the funeral of Ali Chebli, a Hezbollah supporter who was killed during a wedding in the area on Saturday night. Saturday’s killing was committed by the brother of a teenager who was killed in a clash last year, allegedly by Chebli, according to the report.

Contacts among Lebanese authorities are underway to reduce tensions in Khaldeh while the Lebanese army units were deployed in the area, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Red Cross has been calling for a ceasefire so that the injured people can be sent to hospitals.




England scraps quarantine for fully vaccinated visitors


England scraps quarantine for fully vaccinated visitors

Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and much of Europe can enter England without quarantining starting next week.

The British government says people who have received both doses of a vaccine approved by the FDA in the U.S. or the European Medicines Agency, can take pre-and post-arrival coronavirus tests instead of self-isolating.

There is one exception: France, which Britain has dubbed a higher risk because of the presence of the beta variant of the coronavirus. Visitors from France will continue to face a British quarantine.

Currently, only people who have been vaccinated in Britain can skip 10 days of quarantine when arriving from most of Europe or North America. The move to boost Britain’s ailing travel industry comes despite rising coronavirus cases.

The rule change takes effect Monday and only applies to England. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will decide whether to follow suit.

Britain’s travel industry has criticized the government for being too slow to open up, saying it has squandered its lead in the global vaccine rollout and given the EU a headstart in attracting tourists.

Now, from Aug. 2, travelers with the U.S. and EU-approved vaccines will not have to quarantine. Lifting the same requirement for fully vaccinated Britons returning from medium-risk countries in July helped to kickstart a travel recovery.

The new rule applies to England but is widely expected to be followed by the rest of Britain shortly. The government said international cruise sailings could also restart from England.

Airlines such as British Airways and Britain’s biggest airport Heathrow, weighed down by cumulative pandemic losses of $4 billion, welcomed the move but said more was needed to be done if the industry was to recover from the collapse in demand.

Top of the list is a reopening of the UK-U.S. travel corridor which is still affected by a ban on all non-U.S. citizens who have been in Britain.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told LBC Radio earlier on Wednesday that he wanted U.S. citizens to come to England “freely” and was discussing making changes.

Travelers also still have to take an expensive COVID-19 test before departure and shortly after arrival in England.

BA Chief Executive Sean Doyle said the company’s trials had proved it could check travelers for vaccination status quickly and safely.

“This step will allow us to reunite loved ones and get Global Britain back in business, giving the economy the vital boost it so badly needs,” he said in a statement.

(With AP inputs)




Parts of Sydney going into lockdown as virus outbreak grows


Parts of Sydney going into lockdown as virus outbreak grows

The local council areas in Sydney headed for lockdown are Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney

Parts of Sydney will go into lockdown late Friday as Covid-19 outbreak in Australia’s largest city continues unabated.

Health authorities reported an additional 22 locally transmitted cases and imposed a weeklong lockdown in four areas, saying people could leave their homes only for essential purposes.

The outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant was first detected last week, and 65 people have been infected.

“If you live or work in those local government areas, you need to stay at home unless absolutely necessary,” said Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of New South Wales state.

She said the lockdown, which was due to go into effect just before midnight, would have a significant impact on businesses, especially in the central business district of the city of more than 5 million people.

A day earlier, the premier had said there wasn’t any need for further restrictions.

Berejiklian herself tested negative for the virus after her Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall tested positive. Health Minister Brad Hazzard is self-isolating as a close contact of a suspected Covid-19 case in Parliament House.

The local council areas in Sydney headed for lockdown are Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney. People can leave their homes only for reasons such as essential work or education, shopping, and exercise.

Authorities say the cluster spread from a Sydney airport limousine driver who wasn’t vaccinated and reportedly didn’t wear a mask and he is suspected to have been infected while transporting a foreign air crew.

Australian states have closed their borders to travelers either from parts of Sydney or from anywhere in New South Wales. New Zealand has stopped quarantine-free travel with the state until at least 6 July.

One of the people infected traveled to New Zealand’s capital Wellington last weekend, visiting restaurants, bars and tourist spots. That prompted some restrictions in Wellington, although no one has tested positive so far.

The pandemic has claimed 910 deaths in Australia, a country of 26 million. The only Covid-19 death since October was an 80-year-old man who was infected overseas and was diagnosed in hotel quarantine.




HK to tighten quarantine requirements for UK arrivals


HK to tighten quarantine requirements for UK arrivals

The government will also classify the UK, which is currently a “high-risk” place, as “very high-risk” with effect from 28 June

The Hong Kong government announced that the quarantine requirements for persons arriving from the UK will be tightened from 28 June.

In a statement on Thursday, the government said the decision was taken in view of the recent rebound of the pandemic situation in the UK and the widespread of Delta variant, coupled with a number of cases with the L452R mutant virus strains detected on people arriving from Britain or during quarantine in Hong Kong.

The government will also classify the UK, which is currently a “high-risk” place, as “very high-risk” with effect from 28 June.

Persons from the UK boarding for Hong Kong have to present at boarding negative result proof of a nucleic acid test conducted within 72 hours before the scheduled time of departure of the aircraft, as well as the confirmation of a room reservation in a designated quarantine hotel in the city.

On confirmation of negative test results at the Hong Kong International Airport, they will then be required to board the designated transport to proceed to the designated quarantine hotels for a 21-day compulsory quarantine, during which four tests will be conducted, followed by a seven-day self-monitoring period as well as compulsory testing on the 26th day of arrival, the statement added.




About 650 US troops to remain in Afghanistan after withdrawal


About 650 US troops to remain in Afghanistan after withdrawal

Officials have repeatedly stressed that security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is a critical requirement to keeping any US diplomatic staff in Afghanistan

Roughly 650 US troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main American military force completes its withdrawal, which is set to be largely done in the next two weeks, US officials said.

In addition, several hundred additional American forces will remain at the Kabul airport, potentially until September, to assist Turkish troops providing security, the officials said Thursday.

Overall, officials said the US expects to have American and coalition military command, its leadership and most troops out by July Fourth, or shortly after that, meeting an aspirational deadline that commanders developed months ago.

The departure of the bulk of the more than 4,000 troops that have been in the country in recent months is unfolding well before President Joe Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline for withdrawal. And it comes amid accelerating Taliban battlefield gains, fueling fears that the Afghan government and its military could collapse in a matter of months.

Officials have repeatedly stressed that security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is a critical requirement to keeping any US diplomatic staff in Afghanistan.

Still, the decision to keep additional troops there for several more months makes it more complicated for the Biden administration to declare a true end to America’s longest war until later this fall.

In a statement Thursday night, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that as Biden has ordered, the US will complete the withdrawal by early September. “Nothing has changed about that goal.” Kirby said. “The situation is dynamic, and we review our progress daily. Speculation by unnamed sources about potential changes to that timeline should not be construed as predictive.”

On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of the High Council for National Reconciliation, are meeting with Biden at the White House. The two Afghan leaders also are to meet at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and possibly other administration officials, the Pentagon announced.

Getting most troops out by early July had been in doubt because of complications including an outbreak of Covid-19 at the US Embassy and the push to get Afghan interpreters and others who helped the US out of the country.

As recently as last week, there was discussion of possibly extending the US troop presence at Bagram Airfield, north of Kabul, but officials said the US presence at the base is expected to end in the next several days.

Officials said the US has agreed to leave a C-RAM – or Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar system – at the airport, as well as troops to operate it, as part of an agreement with Turkey. The US also plans to leave aircrew for helicopter support at the airport.

According to the officials, Turkey has largely agreed to provide security at the airport as long as it receives support from American forces. US and Turkish military officials are meeting in Ankara this week to finalize arrangements.

On Wednesday, Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there is not yet a written agreement with Turks on airport security. He said he did not want to speak about specifics before there is a final agreement, but added, “I feel very comfortable that security at the Kabul airport will be maintained and the Turks will be a part of that.”

The administration intends to carry out the evacuation of Afghans and their families to other countries or US territories later this summer, likely in August while their visa application are processed, according to a second official familiar with the deliberations but not authorized to discuss them publicly.

The Pentagon has said the military is prepared to assist the State Department as needed but indicated that charter flights might be adequate to move the Afghan visa applicants, thus not necessarily requiring a military airlift.

Officials said that NATO allies, such as Germany, are also very close to being completely out of the country.




Indonesia Covid spike due to Delta variant


Indonesia Covid spike due to Delta variant

The recent spike Covid-19 cases in Indonesia’s Kudus district of Central Java province is due to the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus, an official said.

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said on Sunday that  86.11 per cent or 62 out of a total of the 72 cases in Kudus emanated from the Delta variant, reports Xinhua news agency.

“The spread of this virus variant is very fast. Three weeks ago Covid-19 in Kudus affected only three sub-districts but today they are happening in 11 sub-districts,” Pranowo said.

“Kudus experienced a significant increase in positive cases in a week, jumping more than 30 times from 26 to 929 cases,” Wiku Adisasmito, the national Covid-19 task force spokesperson, said.

Kudus has so far recorded 10,525 confirmed cases, with 7,322 recoveries and 861 deaths.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the Delta variant in Kudus came from Indonesian migrant workers who returned from India.

“We have been taking good care of airports and seaports in Indonesia,” said the Minister.




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