US Capitol lockdown lifted, fire nearby contained

US Capitol lockdown lifted, fire nearby contained
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People evacuate from the West Front of the US Capitol during a rehearsal the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. (AP)
US Capitol lockdown lifted, fire nearby contained
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Preparations are made prior to a dress rehearsal for the 59th inaugural ceremony for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Monday, January 18, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP)
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Updated 18 January 2021

US Capitol lockdown lifted, fire nearby contained

US Capitol lockdown lifted, fire nearby contained
  • The Capitol Police said the lockdown was lifted and the fire nearby was contained
  • Participants in the rehearsal for Biden's inauguration were held in the Capitol rotunda and other indoor areas

The US Capitol complex was shut down for about an hour on Monday out of an abundance of caution after a small fire broke out nearby, underscoring security jitters days before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.
The Capitol Police in a statement said the lockdown was lifted and the fire nearby was contained.
"Out of an abundance of caution the US Capitol complex was temporarily shutdown. There is no threat to the public," the US Secret Service said on Twitter.
The lockdown follows the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, some calling for the death of Republican Vice President Mike Pence as he presided over the certification of Democrat Biden's November election victory.
The Capitol Police earlier said that as a precautionary measure its acting chief shut down the complex, which consists of the Capitol, its grounds and several buildings.
The city's fire department posted on Twitter that firefighters put out a fire outside near the Capitol complex.
"There were no injuries," the department said. "This accounts for smoke that many have seen."
Participants in the rehearsal for Biden's inauguration were held in the Capitol rotunda and other indoor areas, according to a Reuters witness. Biden will be sworn in on Wednesday. 


UK MPs anger Beijing by declaring ‘genocide’ against Uighurs in Xinjiang

UK MPs anger Beijing by declaring ‘genocide’ against Uighurs in Xinjiang
Updated 7 min 25 sec ago

UK MPs anger Beijing by declaring ‘genocide’ against Uighurs in Xinjiang

UK MPs anger Beijing by declaring ‘genocide’ against Uighurs in Xinjiang
  • 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: Beijing on Friday criticised British MPs after they approved a symbolic parliamentary motion declaring that Uyghur Muslims in China were “suffering crimes against humanity and genocide,” calling the accusations a “big lie.”

Although the motion, approved late Thursday, is non-binding and does not require the government to act, it is a further indication of the hardening stance of Britain's parliament towards China over the treatment of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

The Chinese government responded by saying that “the so-called genocide in Xinjiang is a big lie concocted by international anti-China forces.

“The Chinese government and the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang firmly oppose and strongly condemn such allegations,” Zhao Lijian, spokesman of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told AFP in a statement.

“UK's own problems are already enough,” he added. “These British MPs should mind their own business and do more for their own constituents.”

The motion was brought by Conservative former minister Nus Ghani, one of five MPs sanctioned by Beijing for criticising it over the treatment of the Uyghurs.

The British government has said it is “committed to taking robust action in respect of Xinjiang,” but has stopped short of invoking the term “genocide,” arguing only UK courts can make that legal definition.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has also been sanctioned by China, called it a “historic moment.”

“Even though the government maintains that only a court can determine genocide, parliament has chosen to disregard that and vote itself.

“This puts the UK parliament in line with Holland, Canada and the US.”

British junior foreign minister Nigel Adams in February said that a BBC report into the treatment of the Uyghurs revealed “clearly evil acts.”

In a lengthy investigation based on witness testimonies, the BBC reported allegations of systematic rape, sexual abuse and torture of women detainees by police and guards in the western region.

Ghani said that colleagues had been “reluctant to use the word genocide” but added “there is a misunderstanding that genocide is just one act -- mass killing. That is false.”

Instead, genocide concerns intent to “destroy in whole or in part” a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, she said, arguing that the definition was applicable to China.

“While we must never misuse the term genocide, we must not fail to use it when it's warranted.”

Up to one million Uyghur Muslims are estimated by rights groups to have been detained in internment camps.

The EU, US, Canada and Britain have all imposed sanctions on Chinese officials allegedly involved in rights abuses.

The US has described the situation as genocide and banned all cotton from Xinjiang. Australia's parliament is considering a similar move.


Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris

Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris
Updated 57 min 39 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.