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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.




Biden to talk China, Russia & soothe allies at NATO


Biden to talk China, Russia & soothe allies at NATO

US President Joe Biden makes his entrance at a NATO summit aiming to consult European allies on efforts to counter provocative actions by China and Russia.

The summit on Monday comes as Biden tries to rally allies for greater coordination in checking China and Russia, two adversaries whose actions on economic and national security fronts have become the chief foreign policy concerns in the early going of the Biden presidency.

Biden will use his time at the summit to underscore the US commitment to Article 5 of the alliance charter, which spells out that an attack on one member is an attack on all and is to be met with a collective response.

The communique to be signed by NATO alliance members at the end of the summit will include language about updating Article 5.

The update will spell out that if an alliance member requires technical support against a cyber attack, it would be able to invoke the mutual defense provision to receive assistance, said White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan.

The President will begin his day meeting with leaders of the Baltic states regarding the “threat posed by Russia,” China and the recent air piracy in Belarus, according to Sullivan. He’ll also meet with NATO secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

Biden is focused on building a more cohesive bond between America and allies who had become wary of US leadership as the Trump administration was at odds with some leading NATO members, including Britain, Germany and France, over Trump’s 2018 decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement that was brokered during the Obama administration.

For now, NATO plans to leave civilian advisers to help build up government institutions. It’s unclear who will protect them. The alliance is also weighing whether to train Afghan special forces outside the country.

NATO members are also expected to endorse the creation of a new cyber defense policy to improve coordination with countries impacted by the increasing frequency of ransomware attacks, a climate security action plan to reduce greenhouse gases from military activities in line with national commitments under the Paris Agreement and a commitment to strengthen NATO’s deterrence to meet threats from Russia and elsewhere, according to the White House.

Biden will also meet with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday on the sidelines of the summit.

The two leaders were expected to discuss Syria and Iran as well as what role Turkey can play on Afghanistan following the US troop withdrawal, according to the White House.

Also on the agenda: how Washington and Ankara “deal with some of our significant differences on values and human rights and other issues,” Sullivan said.

The unsettled security situation in Libya, as well as overlapping concerns on China and Russia are also expected to be discussed.




Myanmar forces detaining protesters’ families


Myanmar forces detaining protesters’ families

Myanmar security forces are arbitrarily arresting and detaining family and friends of activists, protesters and opposition members.

The trend is increasing, says global rights groups, who demand the authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all those wrongfully held and end all collective punishment.

Since the 1 February military coup in Myanmar, security forces have detained at least 76 people, including an infant, during raids when they were unable to find the person they sought to arrest, according to documentation by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

At least 48 of those people are still in detention, with some now held for more than three months.

‘Thuggish tactic’

“Seizing family members and friends as hostages is a thuggish tactic by Myanmar’s security forces to terrorize the population and coerce activists to turn themselves in,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“The authorities should end the practice of collective punishment immediately and release everyone held on this illegal basis.”

Security forces unable to find specific suspects have arrested their parents, children, other relatives, and friends who happened to be present during the search.

Search and detained

On 8 March, security forces searching for lawyer Robert San Aung seized his daughter and brother-in-law and held them for 18 days before releasing them.

On 22 April, security forces searching for Pu Do Sian Pau, a member of the opposition Civil Disobedience Movement, seized his mother and his 70-year-old father, a retired pastor of the Cope Memorial Baptist Church. Both are still in detention.

On 29 April, security forces searching for Salai Bawi Uk Thang, the editor-in-chief of the Chinland Post newspaper, detained his father. He is still in detention.

On 23 May, security forces arrested the parents and younger brother of a striking worker from the fire department. All three relatives are still in detention.

In some cases, witnesses allege that the security forces beat the relatives before detaining them.

Tin Htut Paing, an activist who is in hiding, told the media that, on 2 May, security forces searching for him and his brother beat his 90-year-old grandmother and 64-year-old mother.

Security forces detained his mother and charged her with “incitement”. On May 28, she was sentenced to three years in prison.

According to the AAPP, security forces searching for Associate Judge Kaung Myat Thu of Chaung-U Township Court beat his mother before arresting her. His mother is still in detention

Young children and even an infant have also been detained, at least temporarily. Security forces detained five relatives of strike leader Ko Jay Lah, including two girls aged two and four.

Similarly, forces searching for protest leader U Tan Win detained his wife and 20-day-old baby.

While in both cases the family members were released later the same day, the arrests send a chilling message to activists and members of the Civil Disobedience Movement that no member of their family is safe, HRW’s Robertson said.

Collective punishment

The detention of people based solely on their relationship to another person is a form of collective punishment, which violates the right to liberty and security of person and the right to a fair trial.

“Myanmar’s junta has taken unlawful detention to a noxious new level by detaining those close to people who themselves should not be facing arrest,” Robertson said.

“Concerned governments should urgently impose targeted sanctions and a global arms embargo or expect the junta to continue to raise the stakes on abusive actions.”

Last month, the Burmese army Tatmadaw used villagers as shields during their attempt to regain control of the Mindat town in the Chin Hills.

“Using civilians as shield is a gross violation of the rules of war,” said Amrita Dey, an author of a volume on Myanmar.

“The Tatmadaw is crossing all limits.”




2 killed in US parking lot shooting


2 killed in US parking lot shooting

Police officers responded to a report of shots fired just after 2 a.m., on Saturday where they found four people shot, Xinhua news agency reported.

Two people were killed and two others injured after a shooting at a parking lot in Indianapolis, the capital of the US state of Indiana, police said.

Police officers responded to a report of shots fired just after 2 a.m., on Saturday where they found four people shot, Xinhua news agency reported.

One man was pronounced dead at the scene, and another peron died shortly after being taken to hospital.

Another man and a woman were injured and taken to hospital in stable condition, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said later in the day.

The shooting appeared to have occurred in the parking lot after the victims were at a local business, the police said.

Homicide detectives are investigating the shooting.




Hamas tunnels damaged by Israel renovated: Official


Hamas tunnels damaged by Israel renovated: Official

According to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), the tunnels were built over five years and allowed Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, to move ammunition, fighters and food within the coastal strip.

Yehya Sinwar, leader of the Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, said on that the tunnels damaged by Israeli fighter jets last month in the enclave were renovated.

“Israel had only succeeded to destroy 3 per cent of Hamas tunnels and our fighters fixed them all,” Sinwar said in a meeting on Saturday.

During the tit-for-tat violence in the Gaza Strip that began on May 10, the Israeli Army claimed that it had “neutralised” an extensive tunnel system dug by the Palestinian Hamas militants in the besieged enclave.

According to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), the tunnels were built over five years and allowed Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, to move ammunition, fighters and food within the coastal strip.

The fighting finally ended on May 21 after an Egypt-brokered ceasefire took effect.

During the 11 days of fighting, more than 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Severe destruction was caused to the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.




Oversight Board hails move as Facebook bans Trump for 2 yrs


Oversight Board hails move as Facebook bans Trump for 2 yrs

Facebook has suspended US former President Donald Trump from its platforms for two years, the maximum penalty under a newly revealed set of rules for suspending public figures, a move that was hailed by the independent Oversight Board which had upheld the earlier decision by the social network to ban Trump.

Facebook said on Friday that it will reevaluate the ban and make the decision whether to end or extend it.

According to Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs at Facebook, the company will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded at the end of the two-year suspension.

“We are suspending his (Trump) accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year,” Clegg said in a blog post.

When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts.

The Oversight Board said in a statement that it is encouraged that Facebook is adopting many of the Board’s policy recommendations in this case.

“The Board is now assessing Facebook’s response to our recommendations, including greater transparency around the ‘strikes’ policy, how Facebook will apply the ‘newsworthiness allowance’ to the accounts of politicians and other influential individuals, and the new enforcement protocols,” it said.

Facebook has said it is committed to being more transparent about the decisions it makes and how they impact its users.

“As well as our updated enforcement protocols, we are also publishing our strike system, so that people know what actions our systems will take if they violate our policies,” Clegg said.

The Board said it believes that the steps Facebook has committed to oday will contribute to greater clarity, consistency and transparency in the way the company moderates content, and promote public safety, defend human rights and respect freedom of expression.

The Oversight Board voted against reinstating Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in May while saying it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an “indefinite” suspension.

It required Facebook to revisit the case, either restore Trump’s accounts, make the ban permanent or define a suspension for a set period of time.

The board is a panel of about 20 former political leaders, human rights activists and journalists picked by Facebook to deliberate the company’s content decisions.




‘India does not need lectures about vaccine supplies’, ‘European Union is leading the way in vaccine donations’: President Macron


‘India does not need lectures about vaccine supplies’, ‘European Union is leading the way in vaccine donations’: President Macron

The virtual summit was attended by Germany’s Angela Merkel and the EU president Ursula von der Leyen amongst others where Macron highlighted India’s vaccine exports to several countries in the time of the pandemic.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday came out in the support of India as he expressed solidarity with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the India-EU virtual summit attended by 26 other EU.

The virtual summit was attended by Germany’s Angela Merkel and the EU president Ursula von der Leyen amongst others where Macron highlighted India’s vaccine exports to several countries in the time of the pandemic.

In response to the COVID-19 vaccine shortage and criticism aimed at the Indian government, Macron asserted that India does not need to be ‘lectured from anyone’ on vaccine supplies.

“India does not need to listen to lectures from anyone about vaccine supplies. India has exported a lot for humanity to many countries. We know what situation India is in,” the French President said.

As per MEA data, India exported COVID-19 vaccines to as many as 95 countries as part of its “Vaccine Maitri” initiative.

Emmanuel Macron also insisted that the immediate priority for the developed countries should be to first donate more doses to poor countries.

“Evidently, we must turn this vaccine into a global public good,” he said claiming that the European Union is leading the way in vaccine donations and called for the United States and Britain to share more, too.

He said that “Europe is the most generous continent with the rest of the world,” having exported 45 million doses, and expressed hope that “the British, the Americans and others will follow.” He added that “In the short term, this is what will allow us to vaccinate.”

The India-EU leaders’ meeting is hosted by Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa. Portugal currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

“We are opening a new chapter in #EUIndia strategic partnership at the meeting of EU Leaders with PM @narendramodi,” tweeted Charles Michel, President of the European Council.


He said the two sides are launching negotiations on three agreements — trade, investment and geographical indications.

(With PTI inputs)




Petrol, diesel prices steady as global oil softens


Petrol, diesel prices steady as global oil softens

Oil marketing companies (OMCs) on Monday continued on the pause mode and decided against revising petrol and diesel prices after cutting its retail rates last week on Tuesday.

Accordingly, pump prices of petrol and diesel remained at previous days level of Rs 90.56 and Rs 80.87 a litre respectively in the national capital. This is the sixth consecutive day when fuel prices have remained unchanged.

Petrol and diesel fell by 22 paise and 23 paise per litre respectively last week on Tuesday in the wake global softening of oil prices. OMCs have decided to pause price revision as they want to watch the crude price movement that has now fallen to around $64 a barrel from remaining above this level in much of the last week.

Across the country as well the petrol and diesel prices remain static on Monday but its retail levels varied depending on the level of local levies in respective states.

In Mumbai petrol continues to be priced at Rs 96.98 a litre and diesel at Rs 87.96 a litre. Premium petrol, however, continues to remain over Rs 100 a litre in the city as is the case with several cities across the country.

The OMCs went on price cut for the first time this year on two consecutive days – March 24 and 25 after keeping oil prices steady for past 24 days. It again reduced the price on March 30.

Petrol and diesel prices were last revised upwards on February 27 and ever since the retail prices remained unchanged even though during the period crude jumped to over $70 a barrel only to start falling after touching close to $60 a barrel and is now slightly up at $63.5 a barrel. It was cut for the first time this year on March 24 and 25 before revision being put on hold again.

Sources said that oil companies took time to revise petrol and diesel prices downwards earlier as they were covering up for losses incurred on its sale when crude was high and retail prices remained static. Some indications suggest that there was a loss of Rs 4 and Rs 2 per litre on sale of diesel and petrol respectively earlier that had now been more or less covered.

The current reduction in retail prices has not helped in bringing down fuel prices that have crossed Rs 100 per litre (petrol) mark in several parts of the country and continues to remain above the levels even now.

Since the beginning of February crude has gained more than $7 per barrel that pushed OMCs to increase fuel prices on 14 occasions raising the prices by Rs 4.22 per litre for petrol and by Rs 4.34 a litre for diesel in Delhi.

The petrol and diesel prices have increased 26 times in 2021 with the two auto fuels increasing by Rs 7.46 and Rs 7.60 per litre respectively so far.

Officials in public sector oil companies said that retail price may rise again if crude and product prices pick up but for now it will fall over the next few days.




UK PM to unveil plan for ‘COVID-19 status certification’ as country eases lockdown restrictions


UK PM to unveil plan for ‘COVID-19 status certification’ as country eases lockdown restrictions

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to unveil plans on Monday to develop a “Covid status certification” scheme to enable the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events as lockdown restrictions eased in England.

Football cup finals, the World Snooker Championship, a comedy club and a cinema will be used to test vaccine passports over the next few weeks, Xinhua news agency quoted a report by the Guardian newspaper.

The evidence from the trials will be used to consider the wider use of vaccine passports, it said.

According to the newspaper, the National Health Service (NHS) will set up a system that will allow people to use an app or a paper certificate to gain access to major events.

The system being piloted will take into consideration whether someone has had a vaccination, a recent negative test, or natural immunity after a positive test in the last six months, said the newspaper.

Johnson will set out more details on Monday at a time when his government announced that more than 5 million people in Britain have received their second dose of the vaccine.

However, British lawmakers will want to study the proposals closely with many deeply suspicious about anything which smacks of a “vaccine passport” for domestic use, the Evening Standard newspaper reported.

More than 40 Conservative lawmakers have publicly declared their opposition to the idea, and Johnson could struggle to get the plan through the British Parliament if they decide to oppose it, said the London-based newspaper.

In developing the scheme, officials will take into account three factors, whether an individual has received the vaccine, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has “natural immunity” having tested positive in the previous six months.

The Prime Minister will also outline the government`s approach for easing restrictions on foreign travel when its global travel task force reports on April 12.

British ministers have made it clear that the ban on foreign travel will remain in place until at least May 17.

When it is finally lifted, it will be replaced by a risk-based “traffic light” system with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world, local media reported.

This will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants and the country`s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Travellers arriving from countries rated “green” will not be required to isolate, although pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed.

For those classed as “amber” or “red”, the restrictions will remain as they are will arrivals required to isolate or enter quarantine.

More than 31.4 million people have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the official figures.

From April 12, non-essential retail, as well as restaurants and pubs, if serving people outdoors, will be allowed to reopen in England.

On February 22, Johnson had announced his roadmap exiting the lockdown, the third of its kind since the start of the pandemic.

The four-step plan is expected to see all legal restrictions in England being removed by mid-June.

Experts have warned the UK is “still not out of the woods” amid concerns over new variants and the third wave of pandemic in the European continent.




TTP terrorist killed in Pakistan


TTP terrorist killed in Pakistan

Pakistan has conducted a series of military operations against terrorist groups in North Waziristan that borders Afghanistan.

An active Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist was killed during an intense exchange of fire with security forces in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, an army statement said.

The security forces conducted an intelligence-based operation in Boya area of North Waziristan on confirmation of the presence of terrorists, the military’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations said in the statement on Saturday.

It added that the killed militant remained involved in target killing, terrorist activities against security forces, extortion and planting improvised explosive devices, reports Xinhua news agency.

Pakistan has conducted a series of military operations against terrorist groups in North Waziristan that borders Afghanistan.

Although the area has mostly been pacified, remnants of terrorist groups still manage to launch attacks on security forces sporadically.




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