Anxious Americans go to the polls with faces masked, stores boarded up

Anxious Americans go to the polls with faces masked, stores boarded up
1 / 2
Voters wait in line at the Oakmont United Methodist Church on November 3, 2020 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, a suburban community outside Pittsburgh. (AFP)
Anxious Americans go to the polls with faces masked, stores boarded up
2 / 2
A voter with "I Voted" sticker is seen during the US presidential election in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 3, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 03 November 2020

Anxious Americans go to the polls with faces masked, stores boarded up

Anxious Americans go to the polls with faces masked, stores boarded up

MCCONNELLSBURG, Pennsylvania: Millions of Americans will cast ballots on Tuesday in an Election Day unlike any other, braving the threat of COVID-19 and the potential for violence and intimidation after one of the most polarizing presidential races in US history.
In and around polling places across the country, reminders of a 2020 election year shaped by pandemic, civil unrest and bruising political partisanship will greet voters, although more than 90 million ballots have been already submitted in an unprecedented wave of early voting.
Many will wear masks to the polls — either by choice or by official mandate — with the coronavirus outbreak raging in many parts of the country.
Some voters in major US cities will see businesses boarded up as a precaution against politically motivated vandalism, an extraordinary sight on Election Day in the United States, where voting is typically peaceful in the modern era.
The tensions surrounding this year’s presidential election were in the air on Monday in the gun section of the Buchanan Trail Sporters store in the small town of McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania.
“No matter who gets in they have a feeling there will be some civil unrest,” Sally Hoover, the shop’s co-owner, said as half a dozen shoppers browsed the cases filled with weapons and bullets.
Hoover is supporting President Donald Trump, a Republican, as he fights for a second term against the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, a former vice president who is ahead in the polls.
“These people around here aren’t going to go looking for the fight,” Hoover said. “But if the fight comes to them, they are going to defend their property and way of life.”

TENSIONS FROM TIMES SQUARE TO TEXAS
The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups said they were watching closely for signs of voter intimidation.
The ACLU’s Georgia affiliate deployed around 300 lawyers across the state at about 50 potential “hot spots” for voting trouble on Tuesday, including 15 polling places in Atlanta.
“We have poll observers who are looking out for any voter intimidation,” Andrea Young, ACLU Georgia’s executive director, told reporters. “We don’t know exactly what will happen, but we want to be as ready as possible.”
The US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is deploying staff to 18 states to monitor for voter intimidation and suppression, including in some battleground counties and in cities shaken by civil unrest this year.
Police and business owners said they were taking precautions to protect property, with memories still fresh of sometimes violent protests over racial injustice in many cities over the summer.
In New York City, the Macy’s department store and the skyscraper that houses the Trump-favored Fox News channel were among the buildings that were boarded up. On Rodeo Drive, one of the most expensive shopping streets in California’s Beverley Hills, staff stripped the display windows at Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels of their jewels.
“Hopefully this is all for nothing,” Kathy Gohari, vice president of the Rodeo Drive Committee, the merchants association, said on Monday as she watched workers nail plywood over luxury storefronts.
Still, fists, eggs and expletives have already flown in New York City’s Times Square in recent days among ardent Trump fans, Democrats and adherents of the anti-fascism movement known as antifa.
An alleged plot by an anti-government militia group to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, uncovered last month, has highlighted the potential for political violence on Election Day. Police in Graham, North Carolina, doused a group of anti-racism activists with pepper spray as they were marching to a polling station on Saturday.
On a Texas highway on Friday, in a spectacle reminiscent of the movie “Mad Max,” a convoy of pickup trucks mounted with billowing Trump flags surrounded a Biden-emblazoned bus filled with campaign staffers in what seemed an attempt to force the bus off the road.
Trump praised the pickup drivers as “patriots,” and expressed impatience with his Federal Bureau of Investigation when the agency said it was looking into the matter.
In the New York City area and elsewhere, convoys of vehicles with Trump flags stopped on highways and bridges, according to local media, snarling traffic in a defiant show of support for the president.
Even once votes are cast, Americans from the president down have expressed anxiety over what could be a protracted ballot count.
As the United States has suffered through the deadliest coronavirus outbreak on the planet, many states have expanded early voting to reduce contagion-spreading crowds at polling stations.
A record-setting 97.7 million early votes had been cast either in-person or by mail as of Monday afternoon, representing about 40% of all Americans who are legally eligible to vote.


UK parliament declares genocide in China's Xinjiang; Beijing condemns move

UK parliament declares genocide in China's Xinjiang; Beijing condemns move
Updated 50 sec ago

UK parliament declares genocide in China's Xinjiang; Beijing condemns move

UK parliament declares genocide in China's Xinjiang; Beijing condemns move
  • So far the government has imposed sanctions on some Chinese officials and introduced rules to try to prevent goods linked to the region entering the supply chain
  • The support for the motion is non-binding, meaning it is up to the government to decide what action, if any, to take next

LONDON: Britain’s parliament has called for the government to take action to end what lawmakers described as genocide in China's Xinjiang region, stepping up pressure on ministers to go further in their criticism of Beijing.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government again steered clear of declaring genocide over what it says are “industrial-scale” human rights abuses against the mainly Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang. Ministers say any decision on declaring a genocide is up to the courts.

So far the government has imposed sanctions on some Chinese officials and introduced rules to try to prevent goods linked to the region entering the supply chain, but a majority of lawmakers want ministers to go further.

Lawmakers backed a motion brought by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani stating Uighurs in Xinjiang were suffering crimes against humanity and genocide, and calling on government to use international law to bring it to an end.

The support for the motion is non-binding, meaning it is up to the government to decide what action, if any, to take next.

The Chinese embassy in the UK condemned the parliament’s move, calling on Britain to take concrete steps to respect China’s core interests and “immediately right its wrong moves.”

“The unwarranted accusation by a handful of British MPs that there is “genocide” in Xinjiang is the most preposterous lie of the century, an outrageous insult and affront to the Chinese people, and a gross breach of international law and the basic norms governing international relations,” the embassy said in a statement dated Friday.

Britain’s minister for Asia, Nigel Adams, again set out to parliament the government’s position that any decision on describing the human rights abuses in Xinjiang as genocide would have to be taken by “competent” courts.

Some lawmakers fear Britain risks falling out of step with allies over China after the Biden administration endorsed a determination by its predecessor that China had committed genocide in Xinjiang


Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris

Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris
Updated 38 min 51 sec ago

Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris

Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris

PARIS: A knifeman stabbed a woman working for the police in the entrance to a police station in Rambouillet, near Paris, on Friday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
The victim died of her injuries, BFM TV and Europe 1 reported.
The attacker's motives were not immediately clear. The assailant was shot and overpowered by police officers. BFM TV reported that he was of Tunisian nationality and had been shot dead.
Darmanin said he was headed to the scene in Rambouillet, a middle class commuter town.
The Versailles prosecutor was investigating, officials said. 


Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 
Updated 23 April 2021

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 
  • People have started to join combat training camps run by paramilitary groups in eastern Karen State
  • National League for Democracy members are reportedly in talks with ethnic groups to form an army against the Myanmar military 

YANGON: A 24-year-old medical student who never imagined he would ever kill anyone, as his vocation was to save lives, did so in late March after Myanmar security forces shot dead dozens of protesting civilians in one of Yangon’s neighborhoods.

“They even used hand grenades and some kinds of explosive ammunition in cracking down on us,” the Yangon University of Medicine student, Swe Min, told Arab News.

At least 739 protesters have been killed by police and military personnel since the beginning of nationwide demonstrations against the junta that ousted the country’s elected National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders in a coup on Feb. 1, according to Friday’s data from Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma.

The incident in South Dagon township, where more than 30 people were killed on March 29, happened two days after the deadliest crackdown on protesters, when security forces killed 114 people across the country.

Footage shared on social media showed how a barricade built by protesting South Dagon residents was blown up with explosives by security forces.

Witnessing the state violence was beyond Swe Min’s threshold of endurance.

“There were randomly shooting and brutally assaulting residents,” he said.

Swe Min and other protesters seized a plainclothes police officer near the main demonstration site and started beating him indiscriminately.

“Seeing the slaughter of civilians, we got very upset and angry,” he recalled.

“We were out of our minds, and we have beaten and kicked him to death.”

As night raids followed the officer’s killing, Swe Min managed to escape Yangon the next morning with a group of friends.

Earlier this month, they joined a militant training camp in the mountainous eastern Karen State that borders Thailand.

“We have joined combat training a week ago,” he told Arab News over the phone from an undisclosed location. There is not much choice left for us. We have to choose to kill or to be killed.”

Arrest, torture and the daily forced disappearances of protesters since the military regime took power have pushed many like Swe Min to take up arms as they no longer seem to believe in non-violent resistance.

The Karen National Union (KNU), the oldest insurgent group fighting for the eastern state’s greater autonomy, said that thousands of people who are against the regime have sought refuge in their control area.

Padoh Man Man, a spokesperson for one of the KNU’s brigades, told Arab News that many are eager to join their combat training.

“Since they came here, most are determined to take up arms. After witnessing the momentum of brutality by the regime, it is understandable why they are in favor of armed resistance,” he said over the phone earlier this week.

The group, he added, had trained hundreds of volunteers alongside new KNU members in basic guerrilla warfare over the past two months.

“They are, therefore, more or less ready to join armed resistance,” he said.

Not only ordinary citizens but also dissident politicians are considering the option.

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers ousted in the February coup that formed a parallel government in mid-April, has reportedly also been in negotiations with ethnic rebel groups in the hope of forming an army against the Tatmadaw — the armed forces of Myanmar.

However, this may not happen soon as, although opposed to the regime, ethnic minorities do not entirely trust NLD, which during its rule had alienated them, Sai Tun Aung Lwin, an ethnic affairs analyst and a researcher with the Yangon-based Pyidaungsu Institute, told Arab News.  

“Small community-based defense units have been formed across the country, but it seems only to defend themselves at the moment,” he said. “People are doing what they have to do. They are dutiful.”

Some are even ready to abandon their monastic life.

A Buddhist monk known for his charity work in Yangon’s Hlaing Thar Yar township, who now identifies himself with a changed name, Ashin Rsara, took off his religious robes and completed combat training in Karen State.

“The regime considers us their enemy, and I witnessed the merciless crackdown in Hlaing Thar Yar last month. Then I realized that we would never have peace as long as it is in power,” he told Arab News.

“Buddha teaches us to love each other in any situation. I have been trying to follow Buddha’s teachings my whole life, but I can’t this time,” he said. “I have to live with hate till the resistance prevails or I die.”


More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study
Updated 23 April 2021

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study
  • An infection of the new coronavirus in such newborns is associated with a three-fold risk of severe medical complications
  • The study was conducted in more than 2,100 pregnant women across 18 countries

Pregnant women infected with COVID-19 and their newborn children face higher risks of complications than was previously known, a study by British scientists showed on Friday.
An infection of the new coronavirus in such newborns is associated with a three-fold risk of severe medical complications, according to a study conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford. 
While pregnant women are at higher risk of complications such as premature birth, high blood pressure with organ failure risk, need for intensive care and possible death.
“Women with COVID-19 during pregnancy were over 50% more likely to experience pregnancy complications compared to pregnant women unaffected by COVID-19,” said Aris Papageorghiou, co-lead of the trial and a professor of fetal medicine at Oxford University.
The study was conducted in more than 2,100 pregnant women across 18 countries, where each woman affected by COVID-19 was compared to two non-infected women giving birth at the same time in the same hospital.
Findings from the study, published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, also showed a delivery by caesarean section may be associated with an increased risk of virus infection in newborns.
However, breastfeeding does not seem to heighten risks of babies contracting COVID-19 from their mothers, scientists said.


UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
Updated 23 April 2021

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
  • Infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine
  • More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON: COVID-19 infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine in UK research, which scientists said showed the real-world impact of the nation’s immunization campaign against the pandemic.
Crucially, the research was conducted at a time when a new and more infectious variant of the coronavirus, called B1.1.7, was dominant in Britain, but still found vaccination was just as effective in elderly people and those with underlying health conditions as it was in the young and healthy.
“These real-world findings are extremely promising,” health minister James Bethell said in a statement as the data were published. He said they showed Britain’s COVID-19 vaccination program — one of the world’s fastest — was having a “significant impact.”
The data come from two studies that are part of the COVID-19 Infection Survey — a collaboration between Oxford University, the government’s health department, and the Office of National Statistics. Both studies were published online as preprints on Friday and have not yet been peer-reviewed.
The researchers analyzed more than 1.6 million test results from nose and throat swabs taken from 373,402 study participants between Dec. 1, 2020 and April 3, 2021.
They found that 21 days after a single dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — with no second dose — rates of all new COVID-19 infections had dropped by 65%.
This included a drop in symptomatic infections by 74% and a drop in infections with no reported symptoms by 57%.
Reductions in overall infections and in symptomatic infections, were even greater after a second dose — 70% and 90% respectively — the study found, and were similar to effects in people who had previously had a COVID-19 infection.
The second study looked at levels of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see how they changed after one dose of either vaccine, and after two Pfizer doses.
Results showed that antibody responses to a single dose of either vaccine were slightly lower in older people, but high across all ages after two Pfizer doses.
More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 10 million having had two doses, official data showed on Wednesday.