Category Archives: World

EU aid to Iran and Pakistan vulnerable

Brussels 13.07.2021 This week the Commission has announced renewed support for those most in need in Iran and Pakistan with €22 million in humanitarian aid. This package will assist those most affected by man-made crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate induced and other natural disasters in the region.

“Iran and Pakistan are both highly vulnerable to recurrent natural hazards, with both countries’ situations aggravated by a severe coronavirus pandemic. Iran and Pakistan are also the principal host countries of Afghan refugees worldwide. The EU is boosting support to humanitarian organisations in both countries at this critical time” Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said.

Of the €22 million allocation, €15 million will focus on supporting humanitarian organisations working in Iran to assist the most vulnerable Iranians and Afghans in the country. Part of the funding will support the country’s battle against the severe coronavirus pandemic, including the provision of urgent medical equipment. EU humanitarian funding also supports Iran’s commendable efforts in assisting Afghans on its territory and host communities, on education, health, protection and livelihood.

€7 million will go to humanitarian organisations in Pakistan, focusing on the most vulnerable local populations, Afghans as well as host communities. Assistance will comprise Afghans and Pakistanis, affected by conflict, displacement, COVID-19 and natural disasters, including malnutrition.

All EU humanitarian aid is strictly monitored and only provided to established humanitarian organisations such as United Nations agencies, NGOs and international organisations.

Image above: illustration, Qom city, Iran.

EU-Central Asia Security Dialogue

Brussels 01.07.2021 The eighth High-Level Political and Security Dialogue between the European Union and the countries of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – took place on Thursday, July 1, in Tashkent, with the participation of Afghanistan as special guest.

The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss regional dynamics and advance region-to-region cooperation on a broad spectrum of issues, including border management, security and the promotion of sustainable connectivity.

The EU welcomed the upcoming conference on Central Asia-South Asia connectivity to be held on 15-16 July in Tashkent, which would provide space for reiterating international support to initiatives aimed at linking up Central Asian states, Afghanistan and their neighbours more closely as a key factor for peace, resilience and prosperity.

Participants expressed their shared concern about resurging violence in Afghanistan and stressed their common determination to continue to work together to promote a genuine and inclusive peace process in the country.

The EU confirmed that the key priorities of its strategy on Central Asia of 2019 would guide the programming of its aid for the budget cycle 2021-2027.

Participants agreed to work together to organise a first EU-Central Asia Economic Forum, EU-Central Asia Conference on Tourism and third EU-Central Asia Civil Society Forum by the end of this year. The EU welcomed the proposal to organise a high-level conference on Connectivity in 2022.

The Dialogue was chaired by EEAS Deputy Secretary-General for political affairs Enrique Mora.

Derek Chauvin mother claims his innocence

Brussels 25.06.2021 Derek Chauvin the former Minneapolis police officer found guilty of murdering George Floyd, is sentenced to spend more than 22 years in prison.

The sentencing comes just hours after his team unsuccessfully tried to throw out the original verdict, a sign that they may launch an appeal. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill handed down the sentence following four victim impact statements from Floyd’s friends and family, including his 7-year-old daughter Gianna, his nephew Brandon Williams who said his family “is forever broken,” and Floyd’s brother Terrence.

Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, spoke on his behalf saying she will always support him, believes in his “innocence,” and said, “the public will never know the loving and caring man he is but his family does.”

Chauvin spoke briefly at the hearing and stated his condolences to the Floyd family, but added: “There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some peace of mind. Thank you.”

Outside the courthouse, a crowd was gathered. Some listened to the hearing on their cell phones and responded to the testimonies accordingly.

Chauvin had been sitting in a maximum-security prison cell since a 12-member jury in April found him guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25, 2020, death. Forty-five people testified at Chauvin’s trial, which lasted three weeks. The jury deliberated a little more than 10 hours before returning a guilty verdict. Chauvin did not testify in his own defense, has never apologized, but has claimed he is the product of a broken system.

“Between the incident, the video, the riots, the trial – this is the pinnacle of it,” Michael Brandt, a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney who has been following the case closely, said.”The verdict was huge too, but this is where the justice comes down.”

Under Minnesota law, Chauvin could only be sentenced on the most serious charge – unintentional second-degree murder which carries a sentence of up to 40 years.

Prosecutors had pushed for a 30-year-sentence, arguing that there were five aggravating factors in Floyd’s death. Last month, Cahill said the prosecution had proven four of those factors. He ruled Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority; treated Floyd with cruelty; committed the crime with children present “who witnessed the last moments” of Floyd’s life; and had actively participated in the crime with at least three people.

Cahill said prosecutors failed to prove Floyd was vulnerable at the time.

Floyd’s death sparked national outrage and led to coast-to-coast protests.

He was killed after police officers responded to a report that he had used a counterfeit $20 bill. The 46-year-old was handcuffed facedown on the street. He yelled, cried out for his mother, and repeatedly said he could not breathe as Chauvin pressed his knee to his neck for nine minutes. Bystanders who watched the incident unfold were also heard on the video footage telling officers Floyd could not breathe.

Chauvin’s conviction was rare. He is one of 11 nonfederal law enforcement officers who have been convicted of murder for on-duty killings since 2005, Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said.

The three other Minneapolis police officers that were at the scene and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter will be tried in March. Thomas Lane, who held Floyd’s legs down, J. Alexander Kueng, who knelt on Floyd’s back, and Tou Thao, who tried to block bystanders, had previously been scheduled to go to trial in August, but the judge decided to delay their trial so that the federal case against them could go first.

A federal grand jury indicted all four former officers on charges of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights.

Just hours before sentencing, Cahill denied Chauvin a post-verdict motion for a new trial.

Cahill ruled that Chauvin’s legal team “failed to demonstrate … the court had abused its discretion or committed error such that defendant was deprived of his constitutional right to a fair trial.”

Cahill also ruled that Chauvin failed to prove prosecutorial or juror misconduct.

Huawei lanuches new smartphone

China’s Huawei Technologies Co. on Wednesday, June 2, unveiled its self-developed operating system for smartphones, in a bid to pave the way for separating its business from the United States and the dominance of Google LLC.

The Chinese tech giant’s Harmony OS will be loaded with its Mate X2 foldable smartphones, released in February, as the export-control measures imposed by the 45th U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration have been hurting its cooperate performance.

The focus on HarmonyOS working across devices is one way Huawei is trying to differentiate its operating system from Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

“HarmonyOS is designed to provide the glue between a growing array of connected devices that Huawei is targeting,” Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, said.

“Huawei will be hoping that it can follow Apple’s lead, by having a single software platform that extends in all directions, providing a seamless experience to customers that buy into its ecosystem of products.”

Cruise industry on crossroads

Brussels 28.05.2021 Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R-FL) administration is standing firm over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) efforts to regulate the cruise industry in the aftermath of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, reiterating that the federal agency “has no legal authority to set any sort of requirements to cruise” and warning cruise ships against requiring vaccine passports. DeSantis Administration Fires Warning Shot over Requiring Vaccine Passports in the Cruise Industry.

The DeSantis administration responded to the news of the CDC clearing a Celebrity Cruises ship to set sail out of Port Everglades, making it the “first cruise ship to sail from US waters in more than a year.” The CDC granted the ship permission to do so after it met certain health standard requirements.

The Celebrity Edge poised to be the first major cruise ship to sail from the United States in over a year as Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease in the U.S.

The ship, part of the Celebrity Cruises line owned by Royal Caribbean Group, has been cleared to sail from Fort Lauderdale with paying passengers in June 2021.

“After months of working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government officials, our Healthy Sail Panel and industry partners, we can again offer cruise lovers the chance to enjoy the wonders of cruising. We are truly thankful to reach this special milestone,” Richard D. Fain, Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO, said in a press statement.

Cruise travelers who sail from the U.S. on fully vaccinated ships will no longer be required to wear a mask indoors or maintain social distancing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention said.

In updated guidance to the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order, the agency put in a new section, essentially giving more discretion to cruise lines that sail with a COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

In the amended section, the agency said that ships that agree to have at least 95 percent of crew and 95 percent of passengers vaccinated can tell both that they do not have to wear a mask or maintain physical distance in any areas.

COVID19: EU aid to Nepal

Brussels 21.05.2021 An aircraft from Spain carrying urgently needed oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and rapid antigen tests arrived in Nepal today, following the country’s request for support for EU assistance to help contain its rapid surge in COVID-19 infections.

The shipment, the first of several to follow from EU Member States in the coming days, is facilitated through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, coordinated by the European Commission.

The offers of support from EU Member States currently include:

Finland: 2.2 million surgical face masks, 350,000 FFP2 masks, 52,500 pairs of vinyl gloves, 30,000 isolation gowns.
France: 14 ventilators, spare parts for oxygen plants, 20.000 antigen tests, 500.000 KN95 masks.
Germany: 62 ventilators, 27,500 FFP2 masks, 30,000 surgical masks, 200 body bags, 5 isolation centre tents, , 400 gum boots
Spain: 50 oxygen cylinders, 10 oxygen concentrators, 15 ventilators, 124,800 rapid antigen tests, 144,000 FFP2 masks.
Belgium: 1 million surgical masks, 2,000 nasal oxygen cannulas.
In addition, the flight delivering Spanish assistance that landed in Kathmandu today will depart on Friday 21 May, repatriating Spanish and other EU citizens upon return.

Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management said: “The COVID-19 surge in Nepal is claiming more lives every minute as it spreads across the country. We stand in full solidarity with Nepal in its fight against the pandemic. I am very thankful to Finland, Spain, France, Germany and Belgium for their quick and generous offers of assistance via our Civil Protection Mechanism, showing that the EU is a trusted partner and friend in times of need. We are also quickly mobilising emergency support with an initial €2 million. We stand ready to provide further assistance.”

The initial €2 million will support the monitoring of all home isolated cases through tele-health/tele-medicine services and rapid referral to hospitals, as well as national emergency medical teams deployment and the mobilisation of international emergency medical teams. The funding will also procure key COVID-19 equipment and supplies in Nepal, including oxygen equipment (including oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators), personal protection equipment, home care kits and diagnostics equipment.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism strengthens cooperation between the EU Member States and 6 Participating States in the field of civil protection, with a view to improve prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. When the scale of an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the Mechanism.

Through the Mechanism, the European Commission plays a key role in coordinating the response to disasters in Europe and beyond and contributes to at least 75% of the transport and/or operational costs of deployments. Following a request for assistance through the Mechanism, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre mobilises assistance or expertise.

The Centre monitors events around the globe 24/7 and ensures rapid deployment of emergency support through a direct link with national civil protection authorities. In 2020, the Mechanism was activated more than 90 times. For example, to respond to the coronavirus pandemic; the explosion in Beirut in Lebanon; floods in Ukraine, Niger and Sudan; the earthquake in Croatia; and tropical cyclones in Latin America and Asia.

Vaccine labels on dating apps

Major dating apps are adding vaccination badges and special benefits to users’ profiles who say they received the coronavirus vaccine in an effort to reach the Biden administration’s July 4 inoculation goal, the Hill newspaper reports.

“In support of President Biden’s goal of getting 70% of adults at least one shot by July 4, the largest dating apps in America will launch new features to encourage Americans to get vaccinated,” according to an announcement from the White House.

The news from the dating apps comes after President Biden earlier this month announced a goal of administering at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine to 70% of adults by July 4.

Tinder, Hinge, Match, OkCupid, BLK, Chispa, Plenty of Fish, Bumble and Badoo are all giving special benefits to those who get vaccinated and adding new “vaccination badge” options to their profiles.

Tinder is allowing vaccinated people to get free premium content such as a “Super Like” and is encouraging users to add “Getting Vaxed” or “Vaccines Saves Lives” stickers to their profiles.

OkCupid users who add the “I’m Vaccinated” badge will get a free “boost” to their profile and, starting in early June, users will be able to search for vaccinated users in a system called “Vaccinated Stacks.”

“According to research from OKCupid, people who are vaccinated or plan to get vaccinated receive 14% more Matches than people who don’t plan to get vaccinated,” the announcement states.

The dating apps will also provide information about the vaccine and links to vaccines.gov.

Everyone above the age of 16 in the U.S. is now eligible for the vaccine, but vaccination rates have slowed since the mad dash to vaccination sites earlier in the year. Biden, congressional lawmakers, members of federal health agencies and state and local leaders have encouraged hesitant Americans to get the shots.

Some state governors have announced lotteries for those who receive a coronavirus vaccine. For example, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that the state would be eligible for a lottery prize of $40,000.

Ohio reported a 28 percent increase in vaccinations after Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced five lottery drawings for a chance to win $1 million dollars each draw.

Currently, over 60 percent of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Japan promotes women

A cross-party group of Japanese lawmakers promoting women’s participation in politics has given up on including in an amendment bill a clause on numerical targets for female political candidates.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party opposed the idea of obliging political parties to set targets on the proportion of women in all candidates they field in elections, citing the difficulty in replacing many incumbent male lawmakers and local assembly members across the country with female candidates.
Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) also claimed that it would be difficult to make it obligatory to set such numerical targets.

Instead, the bill to revise the law on the promotion of gender equality in the political field, which was compiled by the cross-party lawmaker group on Tuesday, included a clause for preventing sexual harassment against lawmakers, local assembly members and political candidates, in an effort to improve the environment of the political arena and boost the number of female politicians.

The bill also calls on the state and local governments to devise measures aimed at helping politicians balance their work with parenting or nursing care, such as expanding the scope of acceptable reasons for being absent from parliamentary or local assembly sessions.

Wakako Yata, a House of Councillors member from the Democratic Party for the People who serves as secretary-general of the cross-party group, told reporters, “We hope to work to continue revising the law, including for introducing a (gender) quota system.”

The group aims to submit the bill to the ongoing parliamentary session, which will run through June 16.

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Spain: Morocco migrant tactic

Brussels 18.05.2021 Some 6,000 undocumented migrants arrived illegally in the Spanish exclave city of Ceuta in North Africa on Monday 17 and Tuesday May 18, according to the central government’s delegate in the city. Government sources told Spanish news agency Efe that around 1,500 of the migrants may be minors, although their age still needs to be confirmed. Most of the arrivals were recorded between 4.30pm and 7pm yesterday.

The migrants reached Ceuta by swimming from the neighboring city of Fnideq, which is on the border of the breakwater that demarks the exclave city from Morocco. Other migrants used rudimentary swimming boards to make it to from the Moroccan city, also known as Castillejos, and which is home to around 7,000 people. The migrants entered via Tarajal beach and the area of Benzú. One person died in the crossing, according to the Cadena SER radio station and confirmed by this newspaper. Moroccan authorities made no effort to stop the wave of arrivals and the Moroccan government remained silent on the issue on Monday, May 17.

In response to the situation, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said via Twitter that Spain “will defend the integrity” of Ceuta “against any challenge. My priority right now is restoring normality in Ceuta. Its citizens must know that they have the absolute support of the Spanish government and our utmost resolve to protect their security,” he wrote.

The Doctor of Philosophy and teachter of International Relations of the Universidad Comillas ICADE, Elsa Aimé González, points out that after an arrival of these unusual characteristics is the “use of migrants as a bargaining chip within a political pulse between two governments. “” It is not something that cannot be foreseen, “ she said.

“What we have been seeing not only now but since recent months with the increase in the arrival of migrants to the Canary Islands is that Morocco is using the migration issue as an instrument of political pressure to obtain compensation from Spain and the EU and achieve alignment with their own political project “, highlights the professor.

The fact that there are 6,000 people who have arrived in this way to Spanish territory really has to call our attention because of the way and the ways they have to migrate,” he adds. “You have to abandon a logic that is based on emergency and in punctual responses and seek policies that seek to respond to the structural dimension of the migratory reality “.

European Council President Charles Michel expressed “full solidarity” with Spain after holding urgent talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who canceled a trip to Paris to deal with what he termed a “serious crisis” for both his country and the EU.

European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told the European Parliament that the influx on Monday was unprecedented. About 1,500 of the recent arrivals are reported to be minors.

China monk on diplomatic mission

Brussels 17.05.2021 Rabban Bar Sauma left China in 1275, followed the Silk Road, and made his way to Baghdad, Constantinople, and France, meeting khans, kings, and a pope. The remarkable Bar Sauma was born in Zhongdu, China, in 1220. His ancestors were descendants of the Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group from Central Asia. Bar Sauma was brought up in the Nestorian faith, a Christian denomination that originated in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) when it broke away from the church in the fifth century. Nestorianism took root in Persia and then spread east to China.

The ilkhan elected Bar Sauma as head of a delegation to Europe to convince its leaders to join a military campaign against their common enemy. Then in his 60s, Bar Sauma began traveling west in 1287 on a new journey, with Constantinople as his first destination among many.

The Byzantine capital made a colossal impact on Bar Sauma. It was his first time in an entirely Christian city—and what a city it was—with its blend of Roman and Byzantine splendor. The Nestorian pilgrim was dazzled by the magnificent sight of Hagia Sophia, built seven centuries earlier by Emperor Justinian I.

From Constantinople he traveled to Italy in June 1287. His first stop was Rome, where he hoped to convince the pope to declare a new crusade to take the Holy Land from the Mamluks. Pope Honorius IV, however, had just died and his successor had not yet been chosen. Bar Sauma’s message would have to wait, so he made the most of his time waiting by visiting Rome’s basilicas and the relics of the holy figures he had so venerated in far-off China. After visiting the tomb of St. Paul and the Church of St. Peter in Chains, he set off to meet the French king Philip the Fair.

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