India to ease lockdown rules as coronavirus case numbers decline

A health worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a woman during a rapid antigen testing campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai. (File/Reuters)
A health worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a woman during a rapid antigen testing campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 06 June 2021

India to ease lockdown rules as coronavirus case numbers decline

India to ease lockdown rules as coronavirus case numbers decline
  • India has the world’s second-largest number of coronavirus infections after the United States
  • Scientists have warned of a third wave of the coronavirus

NEW DELHI: India reported 114,460 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, the lowest in two months, while the death toll increased by 2,677, as parts of the country prepared to ease movement restrictions.

India has the world’s second-largest number of coronavirus infections after the United States with total cases at 28.8 million, according to health ministry data. The country has suffered 346,759 deaths.

A second wave of the coronavirus that has largely battered the rural interiors of the country is yet to abate but New Delhi and other cities are working toward allowing more businesses to operate and movement rules to be relaxed from Monday onwards.

The western state of Maharashtra, which is India’s richest and has suffered the most infections during the second wave, plans to start this week easing in stages a strict lockdown imposed in April.

Scientists have warned of a third wave of the coronavirus that could hit India later in the year, likely impacting children more.

While the country has ramped up its vaccination drive in the past few weeks after a slow start, a majority of its 1.3 billion people are expected to remain unvaccinated by the time a potential third wave hits.


British police arrest man over killing of London teacher

British police arrest man over killing of London teacher
Updated 57 min 32 sec ago

British police arrest man over killing of London teacher

British police arrest man over killing of London teacher
  • Nessa, 28, was found dead in Kidbrooke, southeast London on Sept. 17
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday described the violence against women as a national “epidemic”

LONDON: Police have arrested a 38-year-old man on suspicion of killing Sabina Nessa, a primary school teacher found dead in a London park.
Nessa’s killing — as she walked to meet a friend a few minutes from her south London home — has renewed concerns that women are not safe on the city’s streets. A vigil is due to be held in Nessa’s memory on Friday.
Nessa, 28, was found dead in Kidbrooke, southeast London on Sept. 17. Detectives believe she was attacked during what would have been a five-minute walk through a local park to meet a friend at a pub. Her body was found by a member of the public the next day. Results from a post-mortem examination carried out on Monday were inconclusive.
Late Thursday police said they had arrested a man in a nearby area of London on suspicion of murder. He has not been charged, and his name was not released.
Police also released images of another man they want to speak to as part of the investigation.
Nessa’s death came months after the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who was abducted and killed as she walked home in south London in March. An off-duty police officer has admitted raping and killing her.
Everard’s slaying shocked the country and saw thousands take to the streets to denounce violence against women.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday described the violence against women as a national “epidemic.” He said more than 180 women have been killed by men across England from March 2020.


Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont arrested in Italy

Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont arrested in Italy
Updated 24 September 2021

Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont arrested in Italy

Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont arrested in Italy
  • Carles Puigdemont is wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition over his attempts to have the Catalan region break away from Madrid through the 2017 referendum

MADRID: Exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was arrested in Italy on Thursday, his lawyer and an aide said, four years after fleeing following an independence referendum that Madrid ruled unconstitutional.
The European MEP was expected to appear in court on Friday at a hearing that could see him extradited to Spain to face sedition charges.
The Catalan leader — who has been based in Belgium since the 2017 referendum — was detained in Alghero, Sardinia, his chief of staff, Josep Lluis Alay, wrote on Twitter.
“At his arrival at Alghero airport, he was arrested by Italian police. Tomorrow (Friday), he’ll appear before the judges of the court of appeal of Sassari, who will decide whether to let him go or extradite him,” Alay said.
Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, tweeted that the exiled separatist leader was arrested on his arrival in Italy, where he was traveling in his capacity as an MEP.
He said the arrest was made on the basis of a warrant issued in October 2019 that had since been suspended.
Puigdemont, 58, is wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition over his attempts to have the Catalan region break away from Madrid through the 2017 referendum.
His arrest comes a week after the left-leaning Spanish government and regional Catalan authorities resumed negotiations to find a solution to Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
In March, the European Parliament rescinded immunity for Puigdemont and two other pro-independent MEPs, a decision that was upheld in July by the EU’s General Court.
However, the European Parliament’s decision is under appeal and a final ruling by the EU court has yet to be made.
Following Thursday’s arrest, Madrid expressed “its respect for the decisions of the Italian authorities and courts.”
“The arrest of Mr.Puigdemont corresponds to an ongoing judicial procedure that applies to any EU citizen who has to answer to the courts,” the Spanish government said in a statement.
The statement added Puigdemont should “submit to the action of justice like any other citizen.”
New Catalan president Pere Aragones — a separatist but more moderate than his predecessor — condemned what he called the “persecution” of Puigdemont.
“In the face of persecution and judicial repression, the strongest condemnation. It has to stop,” he wrote on Twitter.
He added that “self-determination” was the “only solution.”
Besides Puigdemont, former Catalan regional ministers Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati are also wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition.
The October 2017 referendum was held by Catalonia’s separatist regional leadership despite a ban by Madrid and the process was marred by police violence.
A few weeks later, the leadership made a short-lived declaration of independence, prompting Puigdemont to flee abroad.
Others who stayed in Spain were arrested and tried.
However, Puigdemont did not benefit from the pardon granted in June to nine pro-independence activists who had been imprisoned in Spain.


Trump allies Bannon, Meadows subpoenaed in Congress’ probe of US Capitol riot

Trump allies Bannon, Meadows subpoenaed in Congress’ probe of US Capitol riot
Updated 24 September 2021

Trump allies Bannon, Meadows subpoenaed in Congress’ probe of US Capitol riot

Trump allies Bannon, Meadows subpoenaed in Congress’ probe of US Capitol riot
  • A mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory
  • Nearly 600 people have been arrested on charges tied to the attack

WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives Select Committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol has subpoenaed four former members of Donald Trump’s administration, including Mark Meadows and Steve Bannon, the panel’s chairman said on Thursday.
Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino and former Defense Department official Kash Patel were also subpoenaed and instructed to produce materials and appear for depositions, committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said in a statement.
Meadows, a former congressman, served as Trump’s White House chief of staff. Bannon was a White House adviser to Trump.
A representative for Meadows said he declined to comment. Bannon and Scavino could not be reached for immediate comment.
Patel said in a statement he was “disappointed, but not surprised” the committee issued a subpoena before seeking his voluntary cooperation.
A mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory, delaying that process for several hours as then-Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress, staff and journalists fled from rioters.
Nearly 600 people have been arrested on charges tied to the attack. It was the worst violence at the seat of the US government since the British invasion during the War of 1812.
Thompson said Meadows reportedly communicated with state and federal officials as part of an effort to overturn the 2020 election or prevent Biden’s certification. Meadows was also reportedly in communication with organizers of the Jan. 6 rally, Thompson said.

’All hell is going to break loose’
In a letter to Bannon, Thompson noted that he had been involved with multiple conversations about persuading members of Congress to block certification of Trump’s election defeat.
“You are quoted as stating, on Jan. 5, 2021, that ‘all hell is going to break loose tomorrow,’” Thompson wrote. “Accordingly, the select committee seeks both documents and your deposition testimony.”
Bannon was fired by Trump August 2017 but they later mended fences and stayed in contact. Trump pardoned Bannon after he was charged with swindling the president’s own supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build a border wall.
Meadows and Scavino have been instructed to appear for depositions on Oct. 15 and Bannon and Patel on Oct. 14.
Thompson said in his letter to Scavino that he was a witness to Trump’s activities on the day of the riot. “You may also have materials relevant to (Trump’s) videotaping and tweeting messages on January 6,” Thompson said.
Patel, who served as chief of staff to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, reportedly spoke repeatedly to Meadows on the day of the riot.
House Democrats formed the committee over objections from Trump’s fellow Republicans in the House. Two Republicans are on the committee, Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
They are among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the violence in a fiery speech repeating his false claims that his defeat was the result of widespread fraud. The Senate later acquitted him.
“We will fight the Subpoenas on Executive Privilege and other grounds,” Trump said in a statement.


CIA Vienna station chief removed amid criticisms over Havana syndrome cases

CIA Vienna station chief removed amid criticisms over Havana syndrome cases
Updated 24 September 2021

CIA Vienna station chief removed amid criticisms over Havana syndrome cases

CIA Vienna station chief removed amid criticisms over Havana syndrome cases

WASHINGTON: The CIA has removed its Vienna station chief following criticism of his management, including what some considered an inadequate response to reports of “Havana syndrome” incidents at the US Embassy there, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The Post, which cited unnamed current and former US officials, reported the action would send a message that leaders must take seriously the Havana syndrome, a mysterious set of ailments that include migraines, nausea, memory lapses and dizziness.
A CIA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on specific incidents or officers.

The Washington Post said dozens of US personnel in the Austrian capital, including diplomats and intelligence officials, as well as some of the children of US employees, have reported symptoms of the syndrome.
CIA Director William Burns said in July that about 100 CIA officers and family members were among some 200 US officials and kin sickened by Havana syndrome.
The ailments were first reported by officials based in the US Embassy in Cuba in 2016.
Last year, a US National Academy of Sciences panel found that the most plausible theory is that “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy” causes the syndrome.
Burns has said there is a “very strong possibility” the syndrome is intentionally caused and that Russia could be responsible. Moscow denies involvement.


UN summit tackles ‘failing’ global food system

UN summit tackles ‘failing’ global food system
Updated 24 September 2021

UN summit tackles ‘failing’ global food system

UN summit tackles ‘failing’ global food system
  • Over 800 million people are hungry, while the world wastes billions in food each year, forum told
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi joins world leaders in backing efforts to protect food security

NEW YORK: UN officials and world leaders at a UN summit have issued an urgent warning over the future of the global food system, and pledged to work together to ensure it remains sustainable and equitable for future generations.

Speaking at the UN World Food Systems Summit 2021, Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the UN, said that our food systems are “failing.”

The summit, attended by Arab News, is taking place at the same time as the UN General Assembly and is designed to kickstart a global effort to “leverage the power of food systems to drive our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and get us back on track to achieve all 17 sustainable development goals by 2030.”

Mohammed said: “Let’s consider that, every day, over 800 million people are hungry. Or that millions of children are starving, while nearly a third of all food produced is lost or wasted. And this waste, today, is worth over $1 trillion.”

She added: “Three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet. At the same time, 2 billion men, women and children are overweight or obese. Our current consumption patterns are expected to generate over another $1 trillion in diet-related health costs.”

She added: “Put simply, our food systems are failing to deliver what we need for our people and the impact that they are having on the planet.”

However, Mohammed said that “through sustainable food production systems, it is possible to feed a growing global population while protecting our planet. But this can only happen when we work together.”

According to a World Bank report released earlier this year, agriculture contributes 19-29 percent of the world’s entire greenhouse gas emissions, and so an urgent reform of that system, which produces food to the detriment of the planet, is much needed.

World leaders and officials from international organizations have thrown their weight behind the Food Systems Summit’s goals.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi told the event: “Establishing sustainable food systems that achieve food security for our communities should be a priority for all of us amid current challenges.”

He also highlighted a number of achievements that Egypt has made in advancing the UN’s agenda, including providing students with healthier food by joining the Global School Meals Coalition and his country’s involvement in pan-African talks aimed at formulating a continent-wide response to its food security issues.

El-Sisi also issued a plea for countries to commit to concrete action: “The success of the UN Food Systems Summit depends on our ability to reach real results that contribute to formulating an ambitious and feasible system according to the priorities of countries, and without imposing a specific vision.”

Addressing the summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan committed Turkey to providing a “more just, habitable, and peaceful world for our children.”

US American International Development chief Samantha Power also spoke on Thursday. She said: “The well-fed have an obligation to care for the hunger of others.”

She added: “We’re going to revise our global food security strategy to make sure that money does more good in the world, and we focus more on inclusive agricultural growth that lifts up women, girls and marginalized communities.”

Power also promised that the US will make sure it “doubles down on climate-smart investments, such as drought-tolerant seeds and carbon storage in soils, so the world can boost crop yields while cutting emissions.”

The World Food Systems Summit will end late on Friday, with dozens of world leaders addressing the event. Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, Saudi Arabia’s minister of environment, water and agriculture, will deliver an address on Friday.